Know what’s a great tool in combat? Planes. They were the ultimate high ground until the Space Race began; they can carry heavy weapons like large machine guns, bombs, and missiles; and they’re fast, allowing them to cross the battlefield quickly. But they also have big infrastructure needs like entire airstrips. Unless they’re vertical take-off, a technology that took decades to make work.
Vertical take-off aircraft like the Harrier and F-35B use vertical take-off to achieve one strategic goal: allowing pilots to support Marines from ships or forward landing areas that cannot support planes conducting conventional takeoffs and landings.
Planes need quite a bit of runway, and even carrier catapults have limits when it comes to rapidly accelerating an aircraft. So when Marines are fighting to take a beachhead or press inland or just doing patrols in the desert, there’s always the chance that they might press ahead into an area that a carrier can’t get to, and that doesn’t have a suitable airport or enemy airbase which they can capture to ensure they get timely air support.
But Harriers, and now the F-35B, can operate from certain amphibious assault ships and many forward positions on land. All they need is a large open area, preferably without much dust and debris, that Marines on the ground can secure and carry fuel and ammo to.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)
But it’s hard to make planes fly when they aren’t moving horizontally. Most planes only achieve lift by moving forward through the air. The air flowing over the wings generates the lift, and if the plane starts moving too slowly, it will stall and, potentially, fall out of the sky.
The Harrier got around this by creating four columns of air that supported the plane when it needed to takeoff and land. These columns overcame the weight of the Harrier and allowed it to fly. But the columns were unstable, and it took a lot of computer power to make all the fine adjustments necessary to prevent crashes.
The new F-35B is more stable and has much more computer power, allowing it to create its columns of air more safely. And, the F-35B uses its vectored thrust to create one of these columns, allowing it to transition to forward flight by simply re-vectoring that thrust after takeoff.
Check out the video above to learn more about how this whole process works.
Pandemic mania has set in as the country braces together (on their couches) to flatten the curve. While we’re all hoping to drop a few curves (on the international scale), our doomsday snacks are threatening to exponentially expand our waistlines.
Sticking to a militant regiment of working out might look different, but it’s not impossible. Think of it like a fun drinking game…without the drinking and a lot less fun. Here’s your new at home PT list.
Replace your Drill Sergeant with your hangry kids
Eager to replace the salty Sergeant voice still ringing in your head yelling, “Drop and give me 20?” We’ve got a solution for that — kids in quarantine. Every time you hear “I want a snack” that’s your cue to drop and pump out a quick round of push-ups, sit-ups or burpees. Believe us when we say you’ll never be in better shape.
Trips to the fridge require squats
It’s 10:27 am and you’re on your third trip to the icebox. You want to quit the snacks but the snacks are calling you. How do people ignore a perfectly good pint of ice cream all day? They do it by mandating squats for each and every trip to the fridge. Rocky road looks a lot rockier if it means a set of 50.
No ruck, no problems
Working out with a full-fledged army of children running around makes sunrise PT look a lot more attractive right about now. Need to get some miles in with munchkins around? This is what they made child carrier backpacks for. Strap ’em in and ruck on.
How to end news cycle scrolling
Doomsday news is so fascinating, it can lead to an infectious disease we’re calling “mindless scrolling.” But alas, there is a cure for getting off the couch and redirecting your tired eyeballs from the hourly updates. Next time you’re feeling the itch to peek at the latest pandemic news, require yourself to run a solid mile first. Yep, a whole mile. Give a mile, get a minute (or 60) of news coverage. If you’re a habitual news checker, you can thank us later for your new marathon-ready body.
Keep calm and drink on
We’ve said it before — military life has prepared you for this. Watching every civilian lose their s!*t right now over the government disrupting plans and telling them what to do is entertaining to say the least. We as a community know a thing or two about government mandates. For every Facebook post you see fretting over cancelled plans, take a drink…of “water.” Drinking half your bodyweight in water is a challenge no more if you follow this plan. We’re guessing you’ll be up to your mark well before noon.
The US Marine Corps says it needs ground-launched missiles that can seek out and eliminate enemy ships sailing in contested waterways.
“Part of the homework that the Navy and Marine Corps have done over the past six months is how we think we’re going to need to operate in the future as an integrated naval force,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
“That means the Marine Corps assumes a role which we have not had in the past 20 years, which is how do we contribute to sea control and sea denial,” he added.
The Marines have practiced striking stationary ships from land and sea with missiles launched from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, but now the service wants to take it a step further and hit ships on the move.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, said the Corps wants a system with an active seeker that can chase down a moving ship, something it doesn’t currently have.
“We have to have a system that can go after that,” Smith told lawmakers. “That is what matters in a contested environment in the South China Sea or in the [Indo-Pacific Command] area.”
Changing the calculus of an adversary
The Marines are currently looking at the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which has a range of roughly 750 nautical miles, as a Ground-Based Anti-Ship Missile (GBASM) solution.
Smith said the service will test fire the system in June.
The NSM is “capable of sea-skimming, high-g maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side, rather than top-down,” according to written testimony submitted to the HASC.
The NSM would be fired from a mobile launch platform based on an unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle called the Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires, or ROGUE-Fires, vehicle. The missile and the vehicle together are the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), the testimony says.
The GBASM and ROGUE-Fires vehicle are “rapid prototyping and development initiatives” for the Corps, according to documents submitted as part of the service’s 2021 budget proposal.
Both have proven successful in war games and simulations, Berger said Thursday.
“Game-changer is probably an over-the-top characterization, but it definitely changes the calculus of an adversary,” Berger said.
The fiscal year 2021 budget proposal included a request for 48 Tomahawk missiles, likely the maritime variant, which appears to be first for the Corps.
“What we need is long-range precision fires for a small unit, a series of units that can, from ship or from shore, hold an adversary’s naval force at risk. That missile is going to help us do that,” Berger told the SASC.
Berger said the Tomahawk “could be the answer or could be the first step toward a longer-term answer five, six, seven years from now.”
With the collapse last year of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — which banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5,000 km (310 miles and 3,100 miles) — after the US withdrew in response to alleged Russian violations, the Marine Corps has more freedom when it comes to ground-launched missiles.
Asked if the request for Tomahawks was a result of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Berger said he “would assume so” but “hadn’t linked the two together.”
“We just knew we need a long-range precision fires beyond the range that we were restricted to before,” he added.
Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.
It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.
The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.
According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.
Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.
(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)
Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.
The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)
Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.
Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.
As the Red Army pressed into Finland, their progress was continuously slowed. Their soldiers were being harassed by Finnish infiltrators before they could reach the frontline. Even the Soviet commando teams dispatched to hunt the evasive Finns were being cut down. The havoc that these raiders created led the Soviets to place a bounty on the unit’s leader – 3,000,000 Finnish Marks for the head of Lauri Allan Törni.
Born in Finland on May 28, 1919, Törni started his career of service early, serving in the Civil Guard (a volunteer militia) as a teenager. In 1938, he entered military service and joined the 4th Independent Jäger Infantry Battalion, a unit that specialized in sabotage, guerilla warfare, and long-range reconnaissance. When the Soviet Union carried out a surprise attack on Finland the next year and started the Winter War, Törni’s battalion was quickly brought to the frontline.
Törni after graduating cadet school in 1940 (Finnish public domain)
At Lake Lagoda, a body of water previously shared by Finland and the USSR, the Soviets attacked the Finns with superior numbers of infantry and armor. During their defense, the Finnish troops lost contact with their headquarters. Without hesitation or orders, Törni stealthily skied through the Soviet lines to re-establish communications. Upon his return to the Finnish lines, he took command of a Swedish-speaking unit of demoralized troops. Though he didn’t speak their language, Törni organized the troops with a series of gestures, shouts, and punches. For his bravery during this engagement, Törni was promoted to 2nd Lt. However, despite some Finnish victories and high Soviet casualties, the Winter War soon ended with a Soviet victory and Finland was forced to concede 11% of its territory.
In the months following the Winter War, Nazi Germany became a strong Finnish ally, and in June 1941, Törni went to Austria for seven weeks to train with the Waffen SS. During this training, Törni wore an SS uniform and swore an oath of loyalty to the Nazi party, both of which would haunt him for the rest of his life. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, Finland made a push to retake the land they had lost to the Soviets in what became known as the Continuation War.
Törni in an SS uniform (Finnish public domain)
At the onset of the Continuation War, Törni was given command of a Finnish armored unit, employing captured Soviet tanks and armored cars. On March 23, 1942, Törni was skiing behind enemy lines to capture Soviet prisoners when he skied over a friendly mine. He recovered from his injuries, immediately went AWOL from the hospital and returned to the front. Törni’s unit was tasked with hunting Soviet commandos that had infiltrated Finnish lines, and eventually infiltrated Soviet lines themselves to attack headquarters and communication sites. Impressed with his ruthlessness and efficiency on the battlefield, Törni’s commanders allowed him to create a hand-picked, deep-strike infantry unit that became known as Detachment Törni.
Törni and his raiders conducted sabotage and ambush missions deep behind Soviet lines. Operating separately from the rest of the Finnish Army, Detachment Törni equipped themselves with Soviet weapons which both confused their enemy and made ammunition plentiful for the raiders. Their engagements often led to close-range, hand-to-hand combat in which they brutalized Soviet troops. Their reputation on the battlefield spread and resulted in the Soviet bounty on Törni’s head. For his leadership and bravery, Törni was awarded the Mannerheim Cross, Finland’s highest military honor, on July 9, 1944.
Despite Törni’s efforts and other Finnish victories, the sheer size of the Red Army could not be matched and the Continuation War ended in a Soviet victory in September 1944. Finland was forced to concede more territory, pay reparations, and demobilize most of their military, including Detachment Törni. Unhappy with this result, Törni joined the Finnish Resistance and went to Germany for training in 1945.
Törni went to Germany with the intention to return to Finland, train resistance fighters and free Finland from the Soviet Union. In order to conceal his involvement with the Nazis, Törni assumed the alias Lauri Lane. During his training, the Red Army had taken over all of Germany’s eastern ports. With no way to return to Finland, Törni joined a German Army unit and was given command as a captain. Though he spoke poor German, Törni used the same ruthless tactics he employed against the Soviets in Finland and gained a reputation for bravery, quickly earning the respect and loyalty of his soldiers.
Törni (center) as Finnish Army Lieutenant (Finnish public domain)
By March 1945, the German Army was all but defeated. To avoid capture or death at the hands of the Soviets, Törni and his men made their way to the Western Front where they surrendered to British troops. Imprisoned in a POW camp in Lübeck, Germany, Törni feared that the British would turn him over to the Soviets or discover his past connection to the SS and try him for war crimes. To avoid either fate, Törni escaped the camp and made his way back to Finland. While trying to locate his family, Törni was caught and imprisoned by the Finnish State Police. He escaped, but was imprisoned again in April 1946. Törni was tried for treason, having joined the German Army after Finland signed a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, and was sentenced to six years in prison.
During his time in prison, Törni made several escape attempts. Though all of them failed, he was released in December 1948 after Finnish President Juho Paasikivi granted him a pardon. Törni made his way to Sweden where he became engaged to a Swedish Finn named Marja Kops. Hoping to establish a career before settling down, Törni adopted a Swedish alias and sailed to Caracas, Venezuela as a crewman aboard a cargo ship. From Caracas, Törni joined the crew of a Swedish cargo ship bound for the United States in 1950.
While off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. He made his way up the east coast to New York City where he found work in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park “Finntown” as a carpenter and cleaner. In 1953, he was granted a residence permit and joined the U.S. Army in 1954 under the Lodge-Philbin Act which allowed the recruiting of foreign nationals into the armed forces.
Upon enlisting, Törni changed his name to Larry Thorne. He befriended a group of Finnish-American officers who, along with his impressive skill set and combat experience, helped him join the elite U.S. Army Special Forces. As a Green Beret, Thorne taught skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerilla tactics. After attending OCS in 1957, he was commissioned as a 1st Lt. and was eventually promoted to Captain in 1960. In 1962, while assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany, Thorne served as second-in-command of a high risk mission in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. The team searched for, located, and destroyed Top Secret material aboard a crashed U.S. plane. Thorne’s performance during the mission earned him a positive reputation in the Special Force community.
Thorne’s official Army photo (U.S. Army photo)
In November 1963, Thorne deployed to Vietnam with Special Forces Detachment A-734 as an adviser to ARVN forces. During an attack on their camp at Tịnh Biên, Viet Cong forces managed to breach the outer perimeter and nearly overran the U.S. and South Vietnamese troops stationed there. All members of the Special Forces detachment were wounded during the attack, including Thorne who was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor. The character Captain Steve “Sven” Kornie in Robin Moore’s book, The Green Berets, is based on Thorne and his courageous actions at Tinh Biên.
A U.S. Army H-34 Choctaw similar to the one that carried Thorne on his final mission. (U.S. Army photo)
Thorne volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam and was put in command of a MACV-SOG unit. On October 18, 1965, Thorne led a clandestine mission to locate Viet Cong turnaround points on the Ho Chi Minh trail and destroy them with airstrikes as part of Operation Shining Brass. The mission was the first of its kind and the team was composed of Republic of Vietnam and U.S. forces. During the mission, the U.S. Air Force O-1 Bird Dog observation plane and the Republic of Vietnam Air Force H-34 Choctaw helicopter carrying Thorne went missing and rescue teams were unable to locate either crash site. After his disappearance, Thorne was presumed dead, posthumously promoted to the rank of Major and awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.
It was not until 1999 that Thorne’s remains were found by a Finnish and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Team. It was concluded that Thorne’s Choctaw had crashed into the side of a mountain while flying nap-of-the-earth. His remains were repatriated and formally identified in 2003. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 26, 2003 with full honors along with the remains of the RVNAF casualties from the crash. Thorne is the only former member of the SS to be interred at Arlington.
Though he was engaged at one point, Thorne spent most of his life committed to fighting communist forces. He left behind no wife and no children. His ex-fiancée would go on to marry another man. Instead, Thorne’s legacy is one of a warrior who ruled the battlefield. He was a scourge on the Soviets in Europe and a deadly threat to Viet Cong in Vietnam. His service and commitment to both his home country of Finland and adopted country of the United States stand as models for anyone willing to take up the profession of arms.
There is a multitude of military uniforms across the five branches and they all serve a purpose. Uniforms are (intended) to be functional and cater to the specific career fields that exist in each military branch. However, when it comes to appearance — especially dress uniforms — there are some that outshine others.
Let’s take a look at whose uniform wins the race, appearance wise.
5. Air Force
Sorry, my dear Air Force, but you have the worst uniform out of all services. Granted, the Air Force is the youngest of all branches, so there might still be some room for growth, but why does everyone wearing their dress blues look like a flight attendant? Please, just give the uniform some variety already.
There’s nothing special about Air Force dress blues or the horrendous gray, green, tiger-striped ABUs that are worn on a daily basis. Also, anytime a cardigan is an acceptable, issued uniform item, you might as well openly welcome the heckling when you raise your hand to enlist. Hopefully, things get better with age.
4. Coast Guard
Who would have thought that the Coast Guard would outshine the Air Force on this? Let’s be honest, the only thing that separates the Air Force dress uniform from the Coast Guard dress uniform is the gold insignias, buttons, and rank. Maybe it’s a tie? At this point, the gold is the only detail that gives the Coast Guard an upper hand.
Truthfully, while the Air Force looks like flight attendants, the Coast Guard at least has a white and black hat the makes them look like airline pilots. Oh, and the operational dress uniform (ODU) doesn’t consist of tiger stripes, but a solid dark blue that is just so vanilla they don’t stand out as memorable. That utility baseball cap isn’t doing any favors for anybody, either.
Something about the old school green uniform stirs up nostalgia. The Army dress uniform has changed over the past 242 years of existence, but for some reason, the classic look of the uniform reminds everyone how the Army has always had their sh*t together.
There’s no hodgepodge of colors, nor does it make the service member look like they could be mistaken for anything other than a soldier. Simplicity gives the Army uniform some kick to outperform the predecessors. The Army Service Uniform (ASU), in particular, brings forth some finery with its class A’s and class B’s, to be worn on varying occasions.
Selection, selection, selection… maybe this is why the Coast Guard and Air Force seem so bland? The Navy is steeped in traditions and these traditions are upheld and displayed through a variety of different dress combinations. As with the Army, the Navy has the old-school, nostalgic vibe of bygone eras. Who doesn’t remember the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square?
The Cracker Jack uniform, as it’s known, is probably one of the most iconic and well-known uniforms out there. Although bell-bottoms are not necessarily the first thing anyone wants to be wearing there are so many more uniforms in the Navy’s arsenal that we can look past the ridiculousness of the 70’s trend.
1. Marine Corps
Who doesn’t love the look of a red stripe down the pants of a dress uniform? There is just something so put-together, so sharp about the Marine Corps uniforms. Not only does this uniform blow every other uniform out of the water, but it also has some impressive folklore attached. The red stripe on non-commissioned officers trousers, for instance, is said to commemorate those who lost their lives during the storming of Chapultepec Castle in 1847, during the Mexican-American War.
While most of the stories behind the uniform have been found to be untrue, it’s still the only uniform that has such well-told history and legend attached. Well, the Corps took the prize in this race, and who can really disagree with its clean sweep? You win this one, Marine Corps… You win.
Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.
“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.
Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.
“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”
That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.
“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)
And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.
“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”
After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.
“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”
With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.
“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.
“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.
“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Authorities say the head of Islamic State militants in Afghanistan has been killed in a strike on the group’s hideouts in Nangarhar Province.
The National Security Directorate said that in addition to Abu Saad Erhabi, 10 other members of the militant group were also killed in a joint ground and air operation by Afghan and foreign forces on Aug. 25, 2018.
The Aug. 26, 2018 statement said a large amount of heavy and light weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.
There was no immediate confirmation of the report.
U.S. and Afghan National Security Forces stand in formation during a transfer of authority ceremony on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2012
Amaq, the extremist group’s news agency, carried no comment on the issue, and there was no reaction from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
Sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan, the group has built a stronghold in Nangarhar, on Afghanistan’s porous eastern border with Pakistan. It’s now one of the country’s most dangerous militant groups.
It’s unclear exactly how many Islamic State fighters are in the country, because they frequently switch allegiances. The U.S. military estimates that there are about 2,000.
Featured image: A U.S. Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Knighthawk makes its approach into Forward Operating Base Fenty in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2013.
When ANTIFA and other radical groups threatened to destroy St. Louis, Missouri, in 2017, then-Governor Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer, stepped in and with frontline leadership defeated them.
A few months afterward, in 2018, Greitens was forced to resign from office as legal costs, which numbered in the millions, mounted following a criminal charge against him. His deputy, Mike Parson, took his place.
This February, however, the Missouri Ethics Commission exonerated Greitens after a 20-month investigation. Kimberly Gardner, the George Soros-backed prosecutor who charged Greitens for crimes with no evidence is now under active criminal investigation. Moreover, the former FBI agent who worked to manufacture the false case against Greitens has been indicted for seven felonies for perjury and evidence tampering.
Now, a documentary series is in the works about the criminal takedown of the now-exonerated Greitens. A source with close ties to the Navy SEAL community and to several Los Angeles based filmmakers informed SOFREP that filmmakers in Los Angeles and Chicago, working with financiers in New York and New Jersey have developed a 12-minute film, as a preview of the potential movie or documentary series. SOFREP received exclusive access to a short preview.
The film also highlights the involvement of associates of then-Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson, some of them convicted felons, who delivered at least 0,000 in cash to people who made false accusations against Greitens. Parson, the film points out, was the largest recipient of donations from lobbyists for a corrupt tax-credit scheme in Missouri’s history. It was a scheme that Greitens shut down.
Greitens’s story is all the more pertinent right now because of his leadership during the civil unrest of 2017. A source with a Special Operations background spoke to SOFREP and said that there is a particular interest in the Greitens story at the moment because of the former Navy SEAL’s actions while in office in Missouri. Moreover, SOFREP has learned that officials from across the country are contacting Greitens for advice on how to effectively deal with violent protestors and particularly those belonging to ANTIFA groups.
In 2017, when police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith in St. Louis, ANTIFA elements joined other anti-police elements from around the country in promising to burn Missouri down and take violent action against the police.
Then, as the Missouri governor, Greitens successfully kept peace in the state, stopping the anti-police and ANTIFA groups who tried to burn and loot businesses and attack the police. While leaders in the past had given people a safe space to loot and to burn, during Greitens’s tenure, such activities would buy them a one-ticket ride to jail.
Missouri had already experienced similar civil unrest, having been the ground zero for the nationwide anti-police movement in Ferguson. And when Greitens was elected in 2016, he pledged strong support to the law enforcement community.
Governor Parson, unlike Greitens who went to the frontlines to support police during his term, has taken a largely hands-off approach to violence. While Greitens was a visible, frontline leader, who did not allow any looting or burning while in office, Governor Parson has expressed sympathy for protestors, and has said that he won’t personally be making major decisions about how to protect citizens, instead of delegating those decisions to others. On Monday night and Tuesday morning in St. Louis, Missouri, rioters burned businesses, four police officers were shot, and one former police officer was attacked by rioters and killed.
(SOFREP readers will want to know that a St. Louis SWAT leader confirmed that one of the wounded police officers suffered severe bleeding. It was a former SEAL who is now a St. Louis Police officer, who applied a tourniquet, rushed the officer to the hospital, and saved his life.)
Asked about how the incumbent governor is dealing with that situation, Greitens told SOFREP that “he is doing really poorly. The situation demands frontline leadership. There must be someone on the ground who can take the critical decisions and plan for all contingencies. A leader who can deliver a calm and clear message on how to deal with the riots. Governor Parson is not that man.”
SOFREP understands that there is an alarming lack of communication and coordination between police forces and the Missouri National Guard, in addition to the non-existent intelligence sharing between them. Police chiefs don’t have operational plans to follow, forcing them to a hodgepodge response to the looters and rioters. There is, moreover, a significant issue of logistics.
“The police should be there to ensure and protect the people’s right to assembly and protest in a peaceful manner,” Greitens added. “But it’s also there to deal with anyone who seeks to oppose that right with wanton violence.”
As Missouri now burns, officers are being shot, and citizens are being killed, filmmakers want to highlight the role of politicians like Mike Parson, and Soros-backed prosecutors like Kim Gardner, who both worked to take down the Navy SEAL Governor. The only Governor in the country who successfully faced down ANTIFA and won.
An Air Force officer who only began obstacle course racing in 2016, ran right straight into her 75-mile goal, placing second place in one of the toughest obstacle course races.
“I honestly never considered placing, it didn’t seem like something that was within reach for me this year,” said Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander.
In a “bracket breaking moment,” Rost earned 2nd place out of 231 females and ranked 18 of more than 1,206 participants in her first World’s Toughest Mudder held November 2018.
The Air Force Academy graduate entered the obstacle course race noon on Nov. 10, 2018, a frigid winter day in Fairburn, Georgia. She would repeat the grueling five-mile lap with more than 20 mud-drenched obstacles until she met her goal of 75 miles.
“On lap 11, it was still dark,” she said. “My body was literally freezing and for the first time I had tears in my eyes. In that moment, a poem that helped me endure military training and other tough times in my life showed up to help me once again.”
She would repeat Invictus by William Erest Henley in her mind throughout the pitch black, sometimes lonely, night.
Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander, poses for a photo at the finish line of the World’s Toughest Mudder, Nov. 10-11, 2018.
Her experience and spirits were uplifted when she started hearing from others that she had a chance to place.
“Around 8:30 a.m., after completing lap 12 (60 miles), I found out I had a chance for third place but the fourth place woman was close behind,” said Rost. “This motivated me to run faster the next two laps.”
Her cheering fans, mother and boyfriend, encouraged her to move faster because no one knew how close the competitor behind her was. They reminded her of her goals, kept her fed and hydrated and pushed her forward.
“When I returned to the pit after completing 65 miles, I was informed that I had improved my lap time by nearly 30 minutes,” said Rost. “There was about three hours remaining and I was two laps away from my goal and based on my lap splits, I knew it was possible.”
Next, a reporter from a podcast seeking to interview her said that if she completed this final lap she would earn second place because the current second place female concluded her race earlier that morning with 14 laps.
“I realized at this point, as long as I finished this final lap before 1:30 p.m., I would get second place,” she said. “It was very surreal. It brings me back to military training when you are really challenged but overcome. When you push yourself and succeed, there is nothing like the reminder of that to renew your spirit.”
At this point in the race, she recalled she had been awake for 36 hours, racing nonstop for 25 of those hours and worried about being alone through the last obstacles. She witnessed others lose motivation during the course of the night, when temperatures dropped to 20 degrees. Obstacles started freezing and other competitors began feeling waterlogged.
Wingmen were essential in the final stretch more than ever. Some of the obstacles are designed to require teamwork. One of them required competitors to physically step on another person to reach the top of a wall, without another person there it was nearly impossible to get up the wall.
“You meet interesting people along the way,” Rost said. “It is great to be around such an encouraging and supportive community.”
Along the path she met an Army green beret and a financial analyst who takes time away from Hollywood-like celebrity engagements to run. These interactions kept the race interesting and passed the time.
She completed the race at 1:10 p.m. in second place, with 20 minutes to spare feeling like a true “bracket buster.”
“While I’m super proud of how I placed, I am even more proud of getting my goal mileage because it reminds me why I love OCR so much,” Rost said. “It is not about what place you get, it is about pushing yourself to and beyond your limits. It is about doing your best each race and believing that with hard work, a good attitude and a little bit of grit, anything is possible.”
Resiliency, physical strength, mental stamina, persistence, and willpower are things serious runners all have in common, according to Rost.
“This is also specifically what my military brethren do,” she said. “We encourage others that they can do it too. If you work hard and have a good attitude, you can do anything.”
Her squadron witnesses this in her performance daily.
“Capt. Rost sets the example for everyone around her,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cory Frommer, 319th RCS superintendent. “You can’t help but to be inspired by her tenacity and winning mindset. She doesn’t know how to quit. When other members of the squadron or base community work with her, they are left no choice but to push their own boundaries just to try to keep up with her. As for the recruiting mission, her incredible performance demonstrates what the Air Force is all about, and when people see airmen like her, they are inspired to be a part of that world.”
She believes her limited experience in the OCR community coupled with her recent winning of the coveted World’s Toughest Mudder silver bib, are a good role model for those who may wonder if they could do a run like that.
“I played competitive soccer growing up and for a period of time in college before getting into bodybuilding,” said Rost. “OCRs combine a little bit of everything, as opposed to being great at just one thing such as running, lifting, grip strength, etc. You have to be good at a little bit of everything.”
What she reminds her audience is that her simple daily personal goals brought her to this point.
“I knew improving my running endurance would need to be a focus area,” said Rost. “I set mileage goals every week and started finding local half, full and ultramarathons. I also started rock climbing to improve my grip strength, participated in crossfit to improve muscular endurance and boxed as a crosstraining workout. As the race got closer, I worked up to three workouts a day.”
Her goal was to do at least one race a month while slowly increasing her monthly mileage goals. After completing her first Tough Mudder in 2016, she did four more in 2017. In 2018 she expanded her OCR experience to include two Spartan races, two half marathons, a full marathon and two ultramarathons.
“I wanted to start seriously competing in OCRs and figured if I can do one of the most difficult OCR formats in the world, than I can do anything,” said Rost.
Editor’s note: Tune in to CBS at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 to watch the full coverage of the World’s Toughest Mudder Capt. Rost participated in.
A U.S. Marine Corps photographer took some incredible portraits of Marines assigned to the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. (The photos were taken in 2017, but they’re worth seeing again).
The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group “support[s] maritime security operations, provide[s] crisis response capability, and increase[s] theater security cooperation while providing a forward naval presence in Europe and the Middle East,” according to the Navy.
The photographer, Sgt. Matthew Callahan, took portraits of Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Kuwait and in Romania, as well as the Marines’ Romanian counterparts with whom they were training.
Check out his photos below:
Pfc. Ken Sicard, a rifleman assigned to Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. He said his uncle, who has since passed away, worked to put his three kids to college. In honor of his uncle, Sicard said he puts a portion of every paycheck in a savings account for his cousins.
US Marine Cpl. Rachel Warford is part of the Female Engagement Team, which is deployed with male infantry units and tasked to help communicate with local families and women.
Cpl. Sunsette Winsler, a military working dog handler assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. “I knew I was going to be a Marine when I was 12 years old,” she said, despite what her mom imagined. “I didn’t tell [her] for about two months,” after enlisting.
Winsler and her military dog, Bella, have been together “since day one,” she said. “I got to train with Bella for six weeks, certify her, bring her to the fleet and stay on her. I am her first handler and she’s my first dog. I have to rely on her for my life and she has to rely on me for everything else.”
An Alabama native and gunner with Tank platoon, US Marine Sgt. Seth Mullins’ duties are operating and firing the weapons systems on board the M1A1 Abrams.
Lance Cpl. James Nemger, a dog handler assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses with his military dog, Caesar. “Caesar has taught me to love life … We can be in the field working on no sleep, out all day in the hot sun doing patrols and Caesar is always having a good time.”
US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Santana Jimenez, platoon sergeant for Tank Platoon and an Arizona native, stands in front one of the Abrams Tank.
US Marine Sgt. Elia Balbaloza, part of the Female Engagement Team, poses during a live-fire training exercise in Romania.
For three days, the Marines participated in Spring Storm 2017 at Capu Midia, training with Romanian soldiers in radio communication, detainee handling, personal security detail, tactical site exploitation and more. It culminated in a live-fire rifle and pistol swap between the two forces.Sgt. Matthew Callahan/US Marine Corps
Romanian Sailor Cpl. Pintilie Madalina, a communications specialist, poses during Spring Storm 2017.
The purpose of the exercise was to provide US amphibious forces with operational training with Romanian Allies in order to enhance interoperability and strengthen enduring partnerships.
US Marine Sgt. Tyler Holcomb is an ordnance maintenance chief with Amphibious Assault Platoon. He’s responsible for inspecting, repairing and maintaining weapons systems for the Marines.
Cpl. Joshua Montgomery, an infantry team leader assigned to Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. “I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to travel the world and shoot big guns … I got all my wishes,” he said with a laugh.
US Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Hecht, an assault amphibian crewman, smokes a cigarette in front of an assault amphibious vehicle, which he’s tasked with operating and maintaining.
Romanian Navy Lt. Zbrnca Mariuta-Lucia was one of 750 Romanian soldiers to participate in Spring Storm 2017.
US Marine Capt. Rebecca Bergstedt is the officer in charge of the Female Engagement Team.
US Marine Lance Cpl. Clayton McCabe, a driver with Amphibious Assault platoon and Missouri native, poses in front one of his AAV.
Romanian Army Lt. Preda Laura poses during Spring Storm 2017. In 2015, the Associated Press reported that Romania began making specialized flack jackets for female soldiers.
Romanian Navy Sgt. Ramona Griguta poses during Spring Storm 2017. By 2008, more than 50 Romanian women had served in combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Romanian Sailor Cpl. Pintilie Madalina, a communications specialist, stands with her rifle during Spring Storm 2017.
Distant footsteps lightly echo through the empty passageway. Two figures of different height walk briskly through the hall toward a heavy steel door labeled “General Surgery: Authorized Personnel Only.” Attached at the hand, the smaller of the two, stops abruptly pulling his mother to a halt.
She sharply whispers something in Spanish to her frightened son. The boy inches toward the now-opened door, as the bright lights expose the sweat on his sun-kissed forehead. What the anxious boy doesn’t realize is that this room has a familiarity to him. He was a patient in it once before — when he was only 8 months old. And now, same as then, he is in good hands.
Pedro Daniel Anton, 8, returned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) to receive further care for his cleft lip and palate. His mother, Petronia Eche, reflects on her first experience with the Comfort caring for her son during Continuing Promise 2011, in Peru.
“In 2010, he was born with a cleft palate and when he was 8 months old and the ship came to provide care, we came for his surgery,” said Petronia, translated from Spanish. “They were very helpful, we received so much support when we had his first surgery. It was a great surgery, we were very well attended and my son came out well.”
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
After his initial surgery, Petronia knew he needed more surgery to improve his quality of life, but had little to no success in getting the follow-up, in Peru.
“I have tried in the past to get his follow-up surgery done but we have been denied continuously,” said Petronia. “But I never gave up. As a mother I knew I needed to be there with him, I never gave up on this because I only want the best for my son.”
After more than seven years from his initial surgery, Comfort returned to Paita, Peru. Petronia’s prayers were answered and she knew he needed to get aboard to get the care he needed.
“What a coincidence, it must be fate that we are here again,” said Petronia, on the verge of tears. “We were in such a long line, sleeping outside in the lines. I was losing my spirits in the wait, but I decided to keep waiting. And out of so many people, we are here.”
Pedro and his mother arrived to the ship under the impression that he was going to have surgery on an umbilical hernia in his abdomen. When the doctors looked at his cleft lip, they realized that they had an opportunity and the resources to give him further care.
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt (left), an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, and Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., perform surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
“Initially, I came because he has an umbilical hernia, but the doctors told me that he needed both surgeries,” said Petronia. “Knowing that made me nervous, but I have trust in the doctors and in God. Many of the doctors here in Paita tell me they can’t help my son but here they said they can do it.”
When the call came in to the medical ward that Pedro and his mother were in, they were overcome with emotion. They both found the courage and strength to stand, take each other’s hand, walk up to surgery to complete the journey, and fulfill the reason why they were on the Comfort.
“I’ve told the doctors, that my son’s life is in their hands,” said Petronia, overcome with emotion and tears flowing down her cheeks. “I’m so appreciative of this because, here in Peru, we don’t have the money to pay for these surgeries, I have tried but we just don’t have enough. But, as a mother, I kept trying to find a way for him to get the surgery. I had faith in God and I would tell my husband that one day—someone would come to help us.”
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon aboard Comfort, was the attending surgeon with Pedro for his cleft lip operation. He said it is common for a cleft lip and palate patient to return for further surgeries as they grow and start cutting teeth and forming a stronger jaw. He was also glad to see a repeat patient because it is a rarity that the Comfort’s doctors are ever able to follow up with the patients they treat.
Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
“It was very rewarding to see him here again,” said Schmidt. “I wasn’t personally involved with his care the first time, but cleft lip and palate are complicated cases that need follow-up and repeated procedures over time in a staged manner. Without this, he would not have been able to return to full function. He wouldn’t be able to eat normally, he wouldn’t be able to have normal speech and he would be at higher risk for health issues such as infections in his sinus.”
When Pedro was brought to the operating room, the surgeons and staff operated on his umbilical hernia first, completing the operation in about 20 minutes. Then, Schmidt and his staff took over for the next part of his surgery, which was very complex and took much longer.
“The patient had an alveolar cleft*, so basically what has happened in that case, is that the upper jaw of the maxilla** didn’t have bone connecting it all the way through and there was a hole where that should have been extending from the mouth to the nose,” said Schmidt. “So what we did, is we opened up that area, reconstructed the gums in that area to create a new floor of the nose.”
“We made sure there was a good seal on the palate side,” continued Schmidt. “And then we used some bone from his hip so that we can reconstruct it. We brought that bone and then we placed it into the defect that was there so that we could grow new bone and create a new full shaped maxilla that will be able to support teeth and have teeth erupt through there.”
Pedro’s surgery was a success and the hole connecting his mouth and nose, including the gap in the bone, was repaired.
“We are very excited about the procedure and I feel we got a really good result,” said Schmidt. “Checking up with Pedro right before he left the ship, he seemed to be in good spirits, and we are expecting a very good recovery for him.”
Oral surgery is performed on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
Feeling jubilant and blessed, Pedro and his mother made their way to disembark Comfort. With their journey one step closer to its completion, Petronia embraced many doctors, nurses and staff before heading back to Paita. With her heart full of graciousness and exuberance, her and her son boarded a small boat to go back ashore.
“I have to be strong for my children,” said Petronia. “I encourage them to be strong, we have suffered together throughout his journey and I am thankful to God that he is going to be okay now.”
Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas.
*An Alveolar Cleft is an opening in the bone of the upper jaw that results from a developmental defect and is present at birth. This area of the jaw that is missing bone is otherwise covered by normal mucosa and may contain teeth. (dcsurgicalarts.com)
**The maxilla forms the upper jaw by fusing together two irregularly-shaped bones along the median palatine structure, located at the midline of the roof of the mouth. The maxillary bones on each side join in the middle at the intermaxillary suture, a fused line that is created by the union of the right and left ‘halves’ of the maxilla bone, thus running down the middle of the upper jaw.(healthline.com)