15 women who helped pave the way in the Army - We Are The Mighty
Articles

15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

“Women have served in the defense of this land for years before our United States was born. They have contributed their talents, skills and courage to this endeavor for more than two centuries with an astounding record of achievement that stretches from Lexington and Concord to the Persian Gulf and beyond,” said retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, chief of staff of the Army, 1991-1995.

Depicted from left, Civil War nurse Clara Barton, Susie King Taylor and Dr. Mary Walker. On the right is WAC founder Col. Oveta Culp Hobby and later WAC Deputy Director Col. Bettie J. Morden. Moving toward the front is Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender and Brig Gen. Sheridan Cadoria. In front is today’s Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West. (Photo Credit: Peggy Frierson)


1. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783)

Mary Ludwig McCauley gained the nickname of “Molly Pitcher” in 1778 by carrying water to the men on the Revolutionary battlefield in Monmouth, New Jersey. She replaced her husband, Capt. John Hays, when he collapsed at his cannon. Since then, many women who carried water to men on the battlefield were called “Molly Pitchers.”

2. Clara Barton, Civil War nurse (1861 – 1865)

Clara Barton witnessed immense suffering on the Civil War battlefield and did much to alleviate it. She was on the scene ministering to those most in need, taking care of the wounded, dead, and dying.

Barton became a “professional angel” after the war. She lectured and worked on humanitarian causes relentlessly, and went on to become the first president of the American Association of the Red Cross. At the age of 77, she was still in the field taking care of Soldiers in military hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

3. Susie King Taylor, Civil War (1861-1865)

Born a slave in Georgia in 1848, Susie Baker, who later became known as Susie King Taylor, gained her freedom in April 1862. Baker was initially appointed laundress of the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, re-organized from the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. Due to her nursing skills and her ability to read and write, her responsibilities with the regiment began to multiply. More than a few African-American women may have provided service as the Union Army began forming regiments of all black men. After the war, Taylor helped to organize a branch of the Women’s Relief Corps.

4. Dr. Mary Walker, Union Army contract surgeon (1861-1865)

Dr. Mary Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855 and later earned a second degree in 1862 from Hygeia Therapeutic College in New York. During the Civil War, she worked at first as a volunteer in Manassas and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Later she worked as a contract physician for the 52nd Ohio Infantry Regiment. Walker is the only woman ever granted the Medal of Honor.

5. Mary Catherine O’Rourke, Telephone operator and interpreter (1917-1918)

Mary Catherine O’ Rourke was one of 450 “Hello Girls” who served in the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit during World War I. They were bilingual female switchboard operators recruited by Gen. John J. Pershing to improve communications on the Western Front.

The Signal Corps women were given the same status as nurses, and had 10 extra regulations placed on them to preserve their “status as women.” They had the rank of lieutenant, but had to buy their own uniforms.

Mary Catherine O’Rourke was in the fourth group of these women who shipped off to France during World War I. She studied French with instructors from the University of Grenoble. She was assigned to Paris and served as interpreter for Gen. John J. Pershing during months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.

6. Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, First WAC director (1942-1945)

Col. Oveta Culp Hobby was called upon to serve as the chief, Women’s Interest Section, Bureau of Public Affairs for the War Department. She served in this position for one year before becoming the first woman sworn into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC in 1942 and appointed as its director. The WAAC was converted to the Women’s Army Corps in July 1943 and Hobby was appointed to the rank of colonel in the Army of the United States as she continued to serve as director of the WAC.

After setting the stage for the creation of the WAC, Hobby built the corps to the strength of over 100,000 by April 1944. She established procedures and policies for recruitment, training, administration, discipline, assignment, and discharge for the WAC. She surmounted difficulties in arranging for the training, clothing, assignments, recognition, and acceptance of women in the Army. Hobby made it possible for women to serve in over 400 non-combat military jobs at posts throughout the United States, and in every overseas theater.

Hobby was later called upon by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1953-1955.

7. Col. Bettie J. Morden, WAC deputy director, 1971

Bettie J. Morden had a long, distinguished career in the Army that took many turns. She enlisted in the WAAC on Oct. 14, 1942. She receiving basic and administrative training at the First WAAC Training Center, Fort Des Moines, Iowa. She served throughout World War II at the Third WAAC Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, as an administrative noncommissioned officer of the Publications Office. Morden later served as a first sergeant with Headquarters Company on the South Post. After the war ended, Morden was discharged in November 1945.

In September 1949, she entered the WAC, U.S. Army Reserve, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in February 1950. In November 1966, she was assigned as executive officer, Office of the Director, WAC, at the Pentagon and was promoted to full colonel on June 9, 1970. She assumed the position of acting deputy director, WAC, on Feb 1, 1971. She retired on Dec. 31, 1972, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

In July 1973, Morden was elected president of the WAC Foundation, now the U.S. Army Women’s Museum Foundation, a private organization formed initially in 1969 to support the museum. Morden resigned from the presidency in June 2001.

8. Jacqueline Cochran, Pioneer female aviator (Pre-World War II to 1970)

After developing a successful line of cosmetics, Jacqueline Cochran took flying lesson in the 1930s so that she could use her travel and sales time more efficiently. She eventually became a test pilot. She helped design the first oxygen mask and became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one. She set three speed records and a world altitude record of 33,000 feet — all before 1940.

She was the first woman to fly a heavy bomber over the Atlantic. She volunteered for duty as a combat pilot in the European Theater during World War II, but her offer was rejected. She trained American women as transport pilots in England for the Air Transport Auxiliary of the Royal Air Force.

Upon return to the United States, she oversaw flight training for women and the merging of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots in July 1943. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 for her service in World War II.

After the war, she was commissioned in 1948. She became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet in 1953 and went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph in 1964. She retired from the Air Force Reserve as a colonel in 1970.

9. Brig. Gen. Clara L. Adams-Ender, Army Nurse Corps (1961-1993)

In 1967, Brig. Gen. Adams-Ender became the first female in the Army to qualify for and be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. She was also the first woman to earn a master’s of military arts and science degree .at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

On Sept. 1, 1987, she was promoted to brigadier general and appointed the chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

In 1991, she was selected to be commanding general of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and served in this capacity as well as that of deputy commanding general of the U.S. Military District of Washington until her retirement in 1993.

10. Command Sgt. Maj. Yzetta L. Nelson, First woman command sergeant major (1944-1970)

Yzetta L. Nelson joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1944. In 1966, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant major. On March 30, 1968, she became the first WAC promoted to the new rank of command sergeant major. She continued to serve in the WAC until her retirement in 1970.

11. Brig. Gen. Sherian G. Cadoria, First African-American female general (1961-1990)

Promoted to brigadier general in 1985, Sherian G. Cadoria was the highest-ranking black woman in the Army until she retired in 1990. She entered the Army in 1961, with a direct commission as a first lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps. In the 1970s, she transferred to the Military Police Corps.

12. Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson, First black female sentinel at Tomb of Unknowns

Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson became the first African-American woman to earn the prestigious Tomb Guard Badge and become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Jan. 22, 1997.

Born in 1974 in Montgomery, Alabama, Wilson joined the Army in February 1993. She was a military police officer assigned to the MP Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). She completed testing and a rigorous eight-month trial period and became part of the Honor Guard Company of The Old Guard.

14. Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones, First command sergeant major of Army Reserve

In September 2003, Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones was selected by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, Army Reserve chief, to become the ninth command sergeant major of the Army Reserve. She was the first woman to serve in that position and the first to be chosen as the senior NCO in any of the Army’s components. For some time, she was also the highest-ranking African-American in any of the military services.

Jones entered the Army in 1982. She attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and advanced individual training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. She was the first woman to serve as class president at the United States Sergeants Major Academy.

15. Lt. Gen. Nadja West, Surgeon general of the U.S. Army

Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West is the 44th surgeon general of the United States Army and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command.

West is a graduate of the United States Military Academy with a bachelor of science in engineering. She earned a doctorate of medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine in the District of Columbia.

Her last assignment was as the Joint Staff surgeon at the Pentagon. In that capacity, she served as the chief medical advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and coordinated all health services issues to include operational medicine, force health protection, and readiness.

(Editor’s note: The above 15 are just a sampling of the many women who have contributed to shaping the U.S. Army.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Confederate soldiers are not considered ‘US veterans’

The question over whether or not Confederate soldiers were U.S. veterans is largely a symbolic one today. Only one Civil War pension is still being paid (that pensioner was a veteran of both sides of the conflict), and by the time Confederates received real benefits, they were all dead by the following year. No specific legislation exists that identifies Confederate veterans as having equal status to all other American veterans.


However, provisions exist that could add up to that protected status. Under the law, that is.

President Lincoln considered Confederate citizens and soldiers “Americans in rebellion,” and not citizen of a foreign country. His view dominated in the days following the end of the war. Lincoln even began the Reconstruction process early with the 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which pardoned the average Joe Confederate troop still fighting for the South.

For a brief period after Lee’s surrender, Union and Confederate soldiers freely intermingled.

President Johnson continued the amnesty policy in 1868, granting a full pardon to most former Confederates, including men who fought the Union directly. They all regained their citizenship and voting rights, but were not granted veterans status by the federal government, which means they did not receive the same benefits promised to those who fought for the Union.

As the 19th century turned to the 20th, Americans began to care for Confederate graves the way they cared for Union ones. But this was not because any Federal act told them to, it was just the spirit of reconciliation in a nation fresh from a victory over Spain. Eventually it was codified into law.

U.S. Code 38 does require the government, when requested, to put up a headstone for soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War, which was confirmed again in 1958 under Public Law 85. That same law also extends veterans’ pensions “to widows of veterans who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”

At the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, Union (left) and Confederate (right) veterans shake hands at a reunion, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The closest Confederates come to U.S. veteran status is in a 2001 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling about whether or not the Confederate flag was able to be flown over a national cemetery, administered by the VA. The court upheld the VA’s treatment of the rebel graves as equally honored, and that it was not obligated to fly any flag except the American flag over the cemetery.

The CSA flag was not considered a legitimate symbol of the United States and the Confederates buried there were honored as citizens, not as veterans.

Elderly Civil War veterans playing cards together, 1930.

So when added up, a Confederate’s benefits amounted to much of what was received by a Union veteran, but they’ll never be called American veterans. The closest they ever came was “American citizens” …”who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How North Korea blackmailed Israel with nuclear weapons

A North Korean diplomat reportedly told an Israeli diplomat in 1999 that Pyongyang would provide ballistic missile technology to Iran, a state sworn to destroy Israel, unless it paid up to the tune of $1 billion.

North Korea has a long and well documented history of providing weapons technology, including chemical and nuclear weapon infrastructure, to countries like Iran and Syria.


While Pyongyang commands a few dozen operational nuclear warheads, according to intelligence reports, its real threat to the world lies not in starting an outright nuclear war, but in selling nuclear weapons to states, or terrorists, that may use them.

It’s unclear if Israel ever paid North Korea’s blackmail, though Israel would later destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor that North Korea was suspected of helping build.

A test-launch of a North Korean ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

North Korea selling nukes is a bigger threat than just building them

If North Korea launched a nuclear attack, it would swiftly find itself on the receiving end of more powerful, more precise nuclear weapons. North Korea’s nuclear weapons serve mainly to deter attacks.

But because of North Korea’s decision to defy international law by testing and developing nuclear weapons, it finds itself under heavy sanctions and impoverished.

This leaves North Korea as a cash-hungry state with an excess of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. A terror group or fellow rogue state, seeing the legitimacy and national power nuclear weapons have bestowed upon North Korea, might seek to buy nuclear technology off Pyongyang.

While many experts generally expect North Korea to maintain the status quo with its nuclear weapons by using them mainly to deter enemies, it’s less clear that Iran, Syria, or especially a terror network would show such restraint.

“Depending on the demand, we certainly cannot exclude the possibility that North Korea will sell its nuclear weapons for cash,” said Nam Sung-wook, a former South Korean intelligence official told the Wall Street Journal, who first reported on North Korea’s attempted blackmail.

The UN has concluded that North Korea has a long history of weapons cooperation with Iran and Syria, the US’s two foremost nation-state enemies in the Middle East. Iran’s stated goal is to destroy Israel, and while their conventional military offers them little hope of achieving that, nuclear weapons actually could do the job.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

Trump isn’t doing anything about this

The US under President Donald Trump has lowered the threat of outright nuclear war with North Korea following talks and a summit with Kim Jong Un, but no work towards denuclearization appears to have actually taken place.

North Korea has not shared with the US any details of its nuclear program, and the US has no specifics from the Kim regime on how many weapons it has or where it keeps them.

So despite Trump’s insistence that North Korea isn’t a threat anymore, there’s absolutely no way of knowing if Kim would provide nuclear weapons to aggressive states, or use that leverage to blackmail countries for fear of nuclear war.

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

Articles

Kim Jong Un executed an official using anti-aircraft guns… again.

Remember those days in the military where early morning briefings forced several attendees to stand up and walk to the back of the room to keep from dozing off? Maybe some did push-ups during intermission to stave off sleepiness.


In North Korea, that struggle can be a matter of life and death.

Just the other day, a few push-ups might have saved Ri Yong Jin, a North Korean education minister, from a horrible fate. He was arrested for dozing off during a meeting with DPRK dictator Kim Jong Un, according to Jane Onyanga-Omara of USA Today

He was accused of corruption and sentenced to die. The method?

Death by anti-aircraft cannon.

Like this. (KCNA photo)

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea released a report in 2015 detailing satellite imagery that shows what they believe to be a special military facility for such executions. Located just outside of the DPRK capital of Pyongyang, the Kanggon Military Facility contains a 100-meter firing range, complete with viewing area that’s big enough to accommodate anti-aircraft guns.

The Kanggon site in satellite photos. (Committee for Human Rights in North Korea)

In October 2014, the regular firing lanes were replaced with six ZPU-4 anti-aircraft guns, using fearsome 14.5mm caliber rounds – a total of 24 heavy guns. Many believe an execution was performed at the Kanggon site just after a satellite grabbed an image of the guns.

Since taking power in 2012, Kim Jong Un spent much of his time consolidating his power base, executing the “old guard” of his father’s regime and keeping only Kim Jong Un stalwarts to prevent a coup. This isn’t even the first time he used anti-aircraft guns to execute a high-level official.

Seems he knows the secret of the knife hand as well. (KCNA photo)

This time around, Kim Jong Un also executed an official in the agriculture ministry with AA fire because his policy efforts contradicted the young dictator’s directives. In 2015, the DPRK’s defense minister was reportedly killed by ZPU-4 guns.  The regime has been known to use mortars and flamethrowers to execute dissidents and officials. Kim Jong Un even reportedly fed his uncle to a pack of hungry dogs.

A recent spat of high-profile defections to South Korea aren’t helping things settle down in the North. A public relations official for North Korea, based in London defected to the South with his family in August. Voice of America’s Youmi Kim quoted South Korean President Park-Geun Hye as saying the defections are a mark of the North’s current instability.

(KCNA photo)

“Recently, even North Korea’s elite group is collapsing, followed by key North Korean figures defecting to foreign countries, showing a sign of serious cracks with chances of shaking the regime higher,” Park told VOA.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about the easiest medal you’ll ever earn

When young men and women join the military, the majority of them dream of making a huge impact, day one, on America’s armed forces — if not the world. From the moment we touch the training grounds of boot camp to the graduation ceremony, we show up ready to make our mark on history by earning different accolades.


Those accomplishments are represented in form of certificates, letters of recommendation, and, of course, ribbons and medals.

Although some of those distinguishments are tough-as-hell to earn, others get pinned on our chest just for making it through boot camp.

One of those earnings, the National Defense Service Medal, or NDSM, is one of the simplest medals you’ll earn.

Related: 5 things you didn’t know about the Navy’s Medal of Honor

Here’s what you didn’t know about the NDSM:

4. Its origin

The NDSM was inked into existence when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10448 on Apr. 22, 1953. It was to serve as a “blanket” campaign medal for service members who honorably served in the military during a period of “national emergency.”

President Eisenhower, 1954. (Photo under public domain)

3. You actually earned the medal?

Since the medal’s establishment, there have been periods of time in which the U.S. isn’t been involved a major conflict. Many veterans who served during those times don’t rate to wear this medal since they didn’t serve during “national emergency” periods.

Those who served during the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Global War on Terrorism all rate to wear the ribbon above their heart if they’ve served for more than 89 days — including boot camp.

2. The medal’s front design

The medal features an eagle perched on a sword and palm branch. The eagle, of course, is the national symbol for the United States, the sword represents the armed forces, and the palm branch is symbolic of victory.

Also Read: 5 reasons why the Volunteer Service Medal is the most ridiculous medal

1. The meaning behind medal’s reverse side

The center showcases the great seal of the United States, flanked by laurel and oak, which symbolize achievement and strength.

Articles

Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

Two top Navy fleet commanders said Tuesday that the next potential conflict hotspot would likely be in Korea.


“If there’s a fight tonight, it’s probably going to happen on the Korean peninsula,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, in a panel discussion at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.

Also read: US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”

The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”

In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan.

“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.

Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.

“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”

Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.

The Republic of Korea Navy amphibious landing ship ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111) and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) transit the Sea of Japan. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam K. Thomas

The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.

Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that preparations were underway to bring North Korean officials to the United States for diplomatic talks between former US officials.

7th Fleet, Aucoin said, is well-resourced and well-manned. “We’re ready to deliver decisive combat power on, above, and below the surface if necessary,” he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These cruisers were really a pair of mini-battleships

The Alaska-class cruisers are often seen as a waste of resources. At first glance, it is easy to see why. The United States only completed two out of the six planned vessels. One more was launched, but never finished. All three that managed to reach the water were quickly in reserve and then scrapped. But these ships were quite an achievement – a mini-battleship that gave good service during their brief careers.

Much of the issue was timing. According to data in Volume Fifteen of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, “Supplement and General Index,” the lead ship, USS Alaska (CB 1) was not commissioned until June 17, 1944, 11 days after the D-Day landings. The second ship, USS Guam (CB 2), was commissioned on Sept. 17, 1944. These ships didn’t have much left to fight by the time they got to the front lines.


Their primary purpose was to kill Japan’s heavy cruisers in a surface action. The Japanese had three classes of heavy cruiser intended for front-line service: The Myoko, Takao, and Mogami classes each packed ten eight-inch guns, and at least 12 610mm torpedo tubes for the Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.

The large cruiser USS Alaska (CB 1) fighting off a Japanese air attack.

(US Navy photo)

According to Fleets of World War II, the Alaska-class cruisers were armed with nine 12-inch guns and 12 five-inch dual-purpose guns. NavWeaps.com notes that these guns, the 12″/50 Mark 8, had a maximum range of 38,573 yards. By comparison, the Long Lance torpedo had a maximum range of 32,800 yards.

An Alaska-class large cruiser’s 12-inch guns could fire as many as three salvoes in a minute.

(US Navy photo)

That is a difference of three miles in favor of the Alaska-class cruisers. In essence, a Japanese heavy cruiser would be making a run of about three miles under fire before it could get within the maximum range of its torpedoes. In the roughly six minutes they would be making that run, an Alaska-class cruiser could get off anywhere from 15 to 18 salvoes.

The incomplete large cruiser USS Hawaii (CB 3) being towed to the scrapyard.

(US Navy photo)

The Alaska-class cruisers ended up helping to defend the fleet against Japanese planes. Both vessels helped escort the stricken USS Franklin (CV 13) after she suffered horrific damage during the invasion of Okinawa, and later took part in Operation Magic Carpet, the return of American troops home after World War II. These ships were sold for scrap in the early 1960s, never carrying out their primary mission of killing enemy heavy cruisers, but these mini-battleships still did their share during the war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

Articles

How the Marines ripped through the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm

When Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait, the Marines were one of the first units to respond. By Feb. 23, 1991, I Marine Expeditionary Force was controlling two reinforced Marine Divisions poised to strike Iraqi forces in Kuwait.


Facing the Marines were two massive minefields and some ten Iraqi divisions.

In the lead up to the invasion, the Marines worked furiously to find gaps in the minefield that they could strike through. They also frequently clashed with Iraqi forces when conducting artillery raids and during the pre-emptive Battle of Khafji.

Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M-60A1 main battle tank over a sand berm on Hill 231 while rehearsing their role as part of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm. (Dept. of Defense photo)

That battle convinced the Marines that maybe the task ahead was not as formidable as they might have assumed. The Marines realized the Iraqis lacked aggression and coordination, and if hit hard they would back down.

But before that could happen they still had to find a way through the minefields. The commanders of the two Marine divisions had their own ideas of how that would happen.

The 1st Marine Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Mike Myatt, was divided into four task forces – Ripper, Papa Bear, Taro, and Grizzly. Two task forces would clear lanes through the minefields before allowing the other two to pass through to spearhead the attack.

The 2nd Marine Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. William Keys, had a different plan. Keys ordered the Division to breach the minefields before storming across Kuwait to meet the Iraqis.

An Iraqi T-55 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm. (Creative Commons photo)

Before the ground war even started, the Marines of Task Forces Taro and Grizzly were infiltrating into Kuwait and through the minefield in order to take up blocking positions when the invasions started.

Then, on Feb. 24, 1991 at 0430 local time, the invasion officially began. The 1st Marine Division’s two task forces, Ripper and Papa Bear, began their assaults through the gaps provided by Taro and Grizzly.

On their flank, the 2nd Marine Division, augmented by the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Division’s 1st Brigade, began breaching operations at the minefield. Mine-clearing line charges and plow-equipped tanks blasted a path through the mines.

As the Marines cleared the minefields, they prepared to engage Iraqi forces. However, instead of an immediate fight, they were confronted with waves of surrendering Iraqi soldiers.

Unable to handle the large numbers of POWs, and with objectives to meet, they simply pointed the Iraqis towards the rear and drove on.

On the first day, the Marines only encountered light resistance and captured all of their objectives.

Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm. The wells were set on fire by Iraqi forces before they were ousted from the region by coalition force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David McLeod)

However, the next day, Feb. 25, the Iraqis launched counterattacks in force against the Marine positions.

Using the burning Burqan oil fields as concealment, the Iraqis were able to infiltrate very close to the Marines before launching their attacks.

The sudden appearance of an Iraqi brigade to the Marine’s flank caused quite a stir. The 1st Tank Battalion of TF Papa Bear bore the brunt of the Iraqi advance. The Marine commander reported, “T-62s everywhere, scattering like cockroaches from the Burqan oil field.”

As the Marine’s M60 Patton tanks engaged the Iraqis, daring Marine aviators came in low under the smoke to blast Iraqi tanks with Hellfire missiles. In three and a half hours of hard fighting, the Marines drove off the Iraqis while destroying 75 armored vehicles.

On TF Papa Bear’s other flank, another Iraqi force was massing to attack the 1st Marine Division’s forward command post. A platoon of infantry and another of LAV-25s commanded by Cpt. Eddie Ray were all that guarded the CP.

When artillery rounds began raining down around the Marines Ray raced forward to assess the situation. What he found was a numerically superior Iraqi force of tanks and armored personnel carriers approaching their position.

Ray’s small force immediately began engaging the Iraqi’s as they made a move for the CP. Seeing the attack developing, Brig. Gen. Draude, the assistant division commander, quipped, “If I die today, my wife is going to kill me.”

Another officer quickly called for reinforcements from TF Ripper and I MEF headquarters. He was told everyone was in a fight and there was no available air support.

M1 Abrams during Desert Storm. (Photo: US Department of Defense)

He responded by simply holding the radio headset in the air for a few seconds before vehemently stating, “We are in a REAL fight at division forward!”

I MEF sent two Cobra gunships to support the beleaguered Marines. With the gunships on station, Ray made a bold move — he counterattacked. Despite overwhelming odds, Ray’s small force hammered the Iraqis and drove them from the vicinity, destroying 50 vehicles and capturing 250 prisoners.

Ray was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

In the 2nd Marine Division’s sector, the Iraqis were fighting just as tenaciously. B Company, 4th Tank Battalion — a reserve unit and the only Marines armed with the new M1 Abrams — awoke on the morning of Feb. 25 to see a massive Iraqi armored column moving in front of their position.

In what became known as the Reveille Engagement, the men of B Company, despite being outnumbered 3-to-1, maneuvered on line and engaged the Iraqis. In just 90 seconds, the Marine tankers wiped out the entire Iraqi force of 35 tanks and APCs.

After defeating the Iraqi counterattacks, the Marines continued their drive north the next day. They took the vital Al Jaber airfield and made it to the outskirts of Kuwait City and the international airport.

While the 2nd Marine Division cut off the Iraqi’s retreat, the 1st Marine Division attacked and secured the airport with support from two battleships firing from the gulf.

The 100-hour ground war cost the Marines five killed and 48 wounded. In that time they fought over 100 miles through occupied territory, crushed seven Iraqi divisions, destroyed over 1,600 tanks and armored vehicles, and took over 22,000 prisoners.

Articles

5 epic parties troops threw when the world wars ended

When years of world war come to an end, the troops who fought are going to party hard. From New York to Moscow to Paris, the Allied cities celebrated their victories with abandon.


1. The end of World War II in Europe saw Moscow run out of booze.

Photo: Wikipedia/Bundesarchive Bild

Russia suffered some of the worst devastation of any of the Allies during World War II, possibly even worse than France. So, when the German surrender was announced in Moscow at 1:10 in the morning, the Soviets sure as hell weren’t waiting for the sun to start partying.

Russian soldiers and citizens spilled into the streets in their pajamas and started drinking the town dry. And that’s not an exaggeration, the party got so boisterous that people reported that vodka just didn’t exist in the city by the time the partying ended.

2. Canadian authorities tried to limit drinking at the surrender of Germany and sailors rioted.

The party in Toronto on VE-Day had nothing on Halifax. Photo: Public Domain/John Boyd

Across the Atlantic, Canadian authorities predicted the drunken antics that would ensue and tried to control it by closing bars and liquor stores. Sailors, soldiers, and civilians broke into the largest two liquor stores and 207 other businesses and stole the contents before burning a police car, a wagon, a tram, and 20 other vehicles.

A federal inquiry later blamed the navy for the sailors’ conduct and fired a senior officer in charge of the men.

3. Paris celebrations started slow and then built to a crescendo.

France tried to hold off the celebrations until noon on May 8 after Germany surrendered, but her people were having none of it. People closed their shops and milled towards the building where Gen. Charles de Gaulle announced the official surrender of Germany and Paris really got the party going.

Aviators from all the allied countries started flying around the city at treetop level as a group of men fired celebratory cannon shots nonstop. Soldiers lined up to receive kisses from French girls. Crowds gathered around Allied flags and sang the anthems of each nation as soldiers stood nearby and joined in.

4. The Polish army got drunk on the front lines.

Photo: Imperial War Museums

For units on the front line, the parties celebrating the end of the war started as soon fighting stopped. For the Polish units “Vodka was supplied for the units in unlimited quantities. Kisses and embraces, salvoes from all arms, marked this great event.”

5. Liquor flowed through Paris after the World War I armistice was signed.

Photo: Imperial War Museum

Paris is apparently the place to be when a world war ends. After the first one, Allied soldiers found themselves plied with liquor, celebrated as heroes, and in some cases, surrounded by mobs singing their praise.

“Honest to goodness,” U.S. soldier Alton Lawrence wrote in a letter to a friend, “I never celebrated so in my life before. I ate, drank, and yelled until I almost gagged. Oh what a head the next morning. France has less wine and cognac than she had a week ago.”

Articles

DOD rescinds policy that allowed pro athletes to defer service

The U.S. Department of Defense has rescinded a year-old policy that allowed military service academy athletes such as Keenan Reynolds to play professionally immediately upon graduation.


Athletes will have to serve two years of active duty before applying for reserve status to pursue a pro career. It’s unclear how the order, signed April 29 by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, will affect former Navy standouts such as Reynolds. The wide receiver, entering his second year with the Ravens, is expected to attend the team’s rookie minicamp this weekend.

“Our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services. Graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at taxpayer expense. Therefore, upon graduation, officers will serve as military officers for their minimum commitment of two years,” Pentagon chief spokesman Dana W. White said May 1 in a statement.

White added that the Defense Department “has a long history of officer athletes who served their nation before going to the pros including Roger Staubach, Chad Hennings, and David Robinson.”

U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was named most valuable player after throwing for 130 yards and a running the ball in for a touchdown in the Army Navy football game, 2012. (Department of Defense photo by Marv Lynchard)

The policy change was an unexpected blow to NFL prospects not only in Annapolis but also at the Air Force Academy and West Point. Midshipman wide receiver Jamir Tillman was not taken in last week’s NFL draft, but his agent had said he’d drawn interest from NFL teams. The Navy athletic department declined to comment on the policy reversal.

Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette, who led the NCAA in yards per catch last season and is on track to graduate this month, was expected to be a midround selection but wasn’t chosen after academy officials were told April 27 that the Air Force wouldn’t allow him to go straight to the NFL.

Robinette was informed of this decision about an hour into the three-day, seven-round draft. The academy said it wanted to let NFL teams know about the policy’s reversal so teams would know he won’t be available until 2019.

Also read: 5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the US military

Robinette led the country with 27.4 yards per catch in 2016 and was the first Air Force player ever invited to the East-West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine. Starting in January, he maintained a full class load while commuting 100 miles six days a week to train with other hopefuls, including top-10 pick Christian McCaffrey, in suburban Denver.

Robinette had prepared for the draft believing he’d be allowed to play in the NFL right away because of a Defense Department decision in the summer of 2016.

After the Ravens drafted Reynolds, a record-breaking triple-option quarterback, in the sixth round in 2016, the department changed its policy for service academy athletes who are offered the opportunity to play professionally, saying they could receive reserve appointments upon graduation and start their pro careers immediately. (All applications for the ready reserve were reviewed on a case-by-case basis.)

Neither the Pentagon nor Reynolds could be reached May 1 to comment on the new order’s effect on his military status. Former Navy fullback Chris Swain and former Air Force tight end Garrett Graham, who spent most of last year on NFL practice squads, also were allowed under the previous policy to defer their active duty last season.

Defense Department officials announced the new order May 1; the Air Force football team arrived in Washington the same day. The Falcons were scheduled to receive the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy at a White House ceremony on May 2.

Articles

13 more awesome military morale patches from around the service

Every time we make a post about the best of military morale patches, our readers prove us wrong with hilarious or otherwise awesome patches that we missed.


Morale patches are patches troops wear on their uniforms designed to be a funny inside joke, applicable only to their unit or military career field. They are usually worn during deployments, but the wear of morale patches is at the discretion of the unit’s commander.

We Are The Mighty’s readers have done it again and we’re happy to share.

A morale patch fresh for 2017.

The UARRSI — or universal aerial refueling receptacle slipway installation — is what allows an aircraft to be refueled by a boom while in mid-flight.

This one was actually taken from a screen shot on BBC. The patch was immediately identifiable to any fan of the show “Archer.” The best part is that it was actually on a Naval Aviator’s shoulder. Top Gun forever.

The older guys always get some love here because the older patches can go much, much further than commanders will allow these days. The patch above is from a Marine Corps aviator in Korea.

For those who don’t speak Latin, this awesome PsyOps patch translates (loosely) to: “All Your Base Are Belong to Us.” The phrase comes from a poorly-translated 1989 video game called “Zero Wing,” but entered internet and pop culture vernacular around the year 2000.

Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas is where USAF pilots start earning their wings. Training classes start on the T-6 Texan II aircraft. We’re told every training class gets to design its own patch.

Operation Deep Freeze is the U.S. mission to support research operations in Antarctica. As one might expect, they have a unique mission with specific risks. It’s reflected in their service patches.

The Army isn’t about to be left out of the morale patch fun. Their combat aviation brigades also have a great sense of humor.

Fort Rucker is the primary training center for U.S. Army aviators. It looks like Army aviation training classes get to design their own patches as well.

This patch comes from a Naval Aviator who served in Vietnam. Technically, it comes from the back of his flight jacket, but it’s still worth a mention.

Our brothers and sisters up north also seem to have an axe to grind with outdated vehicles and equipment. Thanks for reading, Canadian warriors!

This patch clearly came out before the Fat Leonard scandal rocked the Navy. Otherwise either the pig or squirrel would be rocking General MacArthur’s hat and/or sunglasses.

This is one of my personal favorites. While the motto may not inspire the utmost confidence to the civilian viewer, you have to remember, military members have a dark sense of humor.

Air Development Squadron Six was a Navy squadron based at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. First formed in 1955, they formed the critical link between McMurdo and support elements in New Zealand. Ski-equipped aircraft from AIRDEVRON Six were the first planes to land on the continent.

Articles

US troops cleared after civilian deaths overseas

American troops were cleared of wrongdoing in the wake of 33 civilian deaths during a firefight in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which took place Nov. 2-3, 2016.


“The investigation concluded that U.S. forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” a release from the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support said.

“The investigation concluded that U.S. air assets used the minimum amount of force required to neutralize the various threats from the civilian buildings and protect friendly forces. The investigation further concluded that no civilians were seen or identified in the course of the battle. The civilians who were wounded or killed were likely inside the buildings from which the Taliban were firing.”

U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila /Released)

The furious firefight, which, according to a report by Reuters, left five members of a joint U.S.-Afghan force dead and fifteen wounded, also included the destruction of a Taliban ammo cache, which destroyed buildings in the area. At least 26 Taliban, including three leaders of the terrorist group, were killed, with another 26 wounded.

“On this occasion the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and U.S. forces. I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians,” Army General John Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support, said in a statement.

Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)

A 2015 operation in Kunduz was marred when an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship attacked a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 people. A report issued in the aftermath indicated that the unmarked facility had been hit unintentionally. Sixteen personnel, including a two-star general, were disciplined after the attack.

“It has been determined that no further action will be taken because U.S. forces acted in self defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” the statement from Operation Resolute Support said.