These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

As the towers fell and the nation reeled on Sept. 11, 2001, a team of New York Air National Guardsmen at the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NADS) in rural Rome, New York were tasked with searching for missing plans and scrambling fighters in response to the attacks.

Since renamed the Eastern Air Defense Sector, Air Guardsmen there were at the center of the military’s air response on that day. On duty for a NORAD training exercise, Vigilant Guardian, they now have a unique view on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, thanks to their roles in the response.


New York Air National Guard Maj. Jeremy Powell was a 31-year-old tech sergeant taking part in Exercise Vigilant Guardian when 9/11 occurred. He was the first military person to learn about the hijackings after taking the initial call from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Boston center. Master Sgt. Stacia Rountree was a 23-year-old senior airman working as an identification technician. Vigilant Guardian was her first major NORAD exercise.

Like every other American, Powell and Rountree remember that day vividly. Here are eight things they recall about the day that you might not know.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

After Sept. 11, 2001, this is what the NEADS operation floor looked like. Above the Q-93 (the large green radar scope) is the NORAD contingency suite that was installed immediately after 9/11 to provide radar data of the entire country.

(Master Sgt. Stacia Rountree, Eastern Air Defense Sector)

It was not a drill

It took some time for NEADS to realize 9/11 was a real-world scenario and not part of the exercise. Once they did, there was even more confusion trying to find the missing planes, which always seemed to be a step ahead of them.

“We were treating all the information we got as real-time, not understanding that it was coming to us late,” said Rountree, who basically became a liaison between the FAA and the military for the rest of that day.

“We were trying to figure out departure destination, how many people were on board, how big the aircraft actually was, and factoring all of that stuff in. That way the [F-15 and F-16] fighters, when they got airborne, would know that they had the right plane in sight,” she said.

“I stayed on the phone for 12-14 hours, just calling all the bases and asking how quick the fighters could get armed, get airborne, and if they could go to a certain location,” Powell said.

There was little time between FAA call and the first crash

Just 10 minutes elapsed between the time Powell took the first call to NEADS about the hijackings to when the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the North Tower — not enough time to get fighters into the air.

According to the 9/11 Commission’s report, the call from the FAA’s Boston center came into NEADS at 8:37 a.m.

“8:46 is when I scrambled the first fighters [from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts], and then 8:53 they were airborne,” Powell said.

But it was too late to help American 11, which hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:47 a.m.

There were several more reports of hijackings over the day

By the time the day was over, Rountree said there were probably 19 or 20 planes that she and the other ID techs had investigating as possible hijackings. Only the initial four — American 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93 — were the real deal.

At one point, there were reports that American 11 was still airborne. Air traffic controllers likely confused it with American 77, which was somewhere over Washington, D.C. air-space.

Rountree said she tried to contact the FAA’s Washington Center to get a position on it, while Langley Air Force Base fighters were trying to get to the capital.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

New York Air National Guard Maj. Jeremy Powell, a tech sergeant on 9/11, was asked to play himself in the Paul Greengrass film “United 93” about the passengers who kept the fourth hijacked plane from reaching its destination in Washington, D.C. Powell, pictured here in a screen grab from the film, said he believed the movie was as spot-on as you could get, as far as what happened at NEADS was concerned.

“It was probably only a couple of minutes, but to me, it seemed like a lifetime. Then we got the reports that the plane hit the Pentagon,” Rountree remembered. “I was actively trying to find that plane, and I felt that we may have had some time. We didn’t.”

Fighter pilots were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice

The fighters were meant only to shadow potentially hijacked planes, but Rountree said there was discussion of those pilots making the ultimate sacrifice.

“In case their weapons were out, and if we would have had to use force, they were discussing whether or not those guys would have to go kamikaze,” she said, meaning some pilots were considering risking their own lives by using their planes to stop hijacked jetliners. “It was scary, when you thought about the possibility of them having to do that.”

There was a moment of hope for Flight 93

While all of the crashes were shocking, Rountree said that, for her, United 93 was the saddest. They had been trying to find the plane on radar and had called the FAA to get an updated position.

“They said, ‘It’s down,’ and we were thinking it landed,” Rountree remembered. But when they asked for landing confirmation, the info was clarified — it crashed. “For us, you had that glimmer of hope, and then… .”

NEADS was evacuated September 12

The day after 9/11, NEADS was evacuated because there was an unknown plane up at the time, and no one was supposed to be airborne.

“There were fighters coming back from air patrol over NYC … so our commander had them go supersonic over to where we were so they could figure out what it was. They thought it was heading toward us,” Rountree said.

It turned out to be a harmless floatplane, and it was forced to land.

9/11 changed the role of the air defense sectors

“Back then, the primary focus was that we were looking out at people coming to attack us from the outside,” Powell said. “We weren’t really focused on the inside.”

“Nobody thought that somebody would go ahead and utilize planes that were in the U.S. to do something, so our radar coverage was indicative of that,” Rountree explained. “Now, our coverage has definitely increased. It’s night and day versus then.”

The sector now has new and evolving technology.

“Our computer systems are bigger and better. … You should see all of the radars that are now hooked up. Everything the FAA sees, we see. We are much more actively involved in the identification of all aircraft in the United States,” Powell said.

Before 9/11, Rountree said they couldn’t always get in touch with critical personnel at the FAA centers. Now they can.

“We really didn’t have to talk to the various Air Traffic Control Center supervisors. Now, we have instant lines with everybody,” she said.

The military has been monitoring the skies over the U.S. ever since.

“A lot of people didn’t even realize that we were probably there, or what we even do, which could be a good thing,” Powell said. “It reinforces the idea that somebody’s always watching you, especially in the sky. The FAA’s there — that is their airspace — but the military is, too.”

Never Forget.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sweden shows its teeth with ship deployment to NATO exercise

NATO is about to kick off its largest military exercises since the Cold War, which will include more than 50,000 troops from 31 countries.

The military exercises, known as Trident Juncture 2018, will be held from Oct. 25 — Nov. 7, 2018, in Norway.

One of the countries participating in the exercises is non-NATO member Sweden, which has grown increasingly concerned about neighboring Russia, especially after Moscow apparently targeted it during a simulated nuclear strike in 2013.


In May 2018, Sweden handed out a pamphlet to its citizens titled “If Crisis or War Comes,” instructing them how to defend the country in case of war. It also purchased id=”listicle-2614541521″.3 billion worth of Patriot missile defense systems in November 2017, and even held a large joint military drill with the US two months before that.

Now, Sweden is bringing about 1,900 troops to Trident Juncture 2018, along with two stealthy Visby-class corvettes, the HMS Karlstad and HMS Nyköping.

The two corvettes will be integrated into Standing NATO Maritime Group One, which is basically NATO’s standing frigate force, Lt. Jimmie Adamsson, a public affairs officer for the Swedish Navy, told Business Insider.

Here’s what the corvettes can do.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

The Swedish Visby-class corvette HMS Nyköping (K34) transits the Baltic Sea during BALTOPS 2017.

(US Navy photo)

Sweden has five Visby-class corvettes, with the first being delivered in 2002 and the last two, the Karlstad and Nyköping, in 2015.

The corvettes are mainly designed for anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures, but the Karlstad is used more as an attack and anti-surface warfare vessel.

Source: naval-technology.com

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

The HMS Nyköping docked at an unknown date.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

The Swedish corvette Nyköping (K34) docked in the Aura River during the Northern Coasts 2014 exercise public pre-sail event.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

A Swedish sailor holds a buoy fender while HMS Karlstad comes alongside the pier in Trondheim (Norway) for a port call prior to NATO Exercise Trident Juncture 2018.

(NATO photo)

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Royal Swedish Navy corvette HSwMS Karlstad arrives in Trondheim, Norway for a port visit prior to Trident Juncture 2018.

(NATO photo)

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

The flight deck of the HMS Visby.

(Swedish Armed Forces)

The corvettes also have one small helipad, which can carry one lightweight AgustaWestland A109M multi-role helicopter.

Source: n aval-technology.com

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

HMS Karlstad comes alongside in Trondheim prior participating in Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(NATO photo)

Adamsson said that the Swedish Navy has thus far been happy with the Visby-class corvettes. They have yet to see combat, and were delivered later than expected, but the stealth technology has proven capable in all aspects.

The Visby-class is designed to minimize radar signals, optical and infrared signatures, magentic signatures, and more.

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

Articles

5 other battles that kicked off the war in the Pacific

When the Japanese attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, they did so in a coordinated effort that spanned across the Pacific.


Having been weakened by sanctions imposed by the United States, the Japanese sought to deliver a crushing blow to the U.S. and its allies, claiming much of the territory in the East and leaving little means for resistance.

These are the five battles that occurred simultaneously (though on December 8 because they were across the international date line) as the attack on Pearl Harbor, effectively beginning the war in the Pacific:

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
The Americans would not recapture the island until 1944. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

1. Battle of Guam

Along with the air attacks at Pearl Harbor the Japanese also began air raids against the island of Guam on the morning of December 8, 1941. Two days later an oversized Japanese invasion force landed on the island. After quickly defeating the local Insular Guard force, the Japanese moved on to the under-strength Marine Corps detachment led by Lt. Col. William MacNulty. After a brief resistance, the Marines were ordered to surrender by the islands governor. However, six men from the U.S. Navy fled into the jungle in hopes of evading capture. Five were eventually captured and executed but one, George Ray Tweed, managed to hold out with the help of the local Chamorro tribe for over two and a half years until U.S. forces retook the island in 1944. To the locals he represented the hope of an American return to the island. When the Americans returned he was able to signal a nearby destroyer and pass on valuable targeting information.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
Most of the F4F Wildcats defending Wake Island were lost in the initial attack. The remaining would also fall to the Japanese, but not before sinking the Kisaragi battleship. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

2. Battle of Wake Island

When the Japanese first launched their air attacks on Wake Island, they caught the U.S. off guard and managed to destroy precious aircraft on the ground. However, when the Japanese invasion came on Dec. 11, 1941, the Americans were ready and threw back the initial Japanese landing attempt. The Japanese proceeded to lay siege to the island. Aerial bombardment continued but Wake Island became a bright spot in the Pacific as American forces were pushed back elsewhere. The media dubbed it the “Alamo of the Pacific.” Eventually, on Dec. 23, 1941, the Japanese launched another assault on the island. Again the defenders put up a staunch resistance. With no more flyable planes, the Marine aviators — as well as civilians trapped on the island — joined in the fight. Capt. Henry Elrod would become the first Marine aviator to earn the Medal of Honor for his actions there. Despite the intrepid defense, the island was surrendered. The defenders joined the others across the Pacific in their brutal treatment by the Japanese.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
Prisoners on the march from Bataan to the prison camp. None would survive the war. (U.S. National Archives)

3. Battle of the Philippines

When the first Japanese forces hit the islands north of Luzon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, brought out of retirement for just such an occasion, had over 31,000 American and Philippine troops under his command. These forces put up a determined resistance throughout December, but on Christmas Eve MacArthur called for a fighting withdrawal to the Bataan Peninsula. Once his forces were consolidated on Bataan and the harbor islands of Manila Bay, they dug in to make a final stand against the Japanese onslaught. For several months they held out until shortages of all necessary war supplies dwindled.

The survivors were rounded up and subjected to the brutal Bataan Death March on their way to POW Camps. A lucky few were able to withdraw to Corregidor. A defensive force centered on the 4th Marine Regiment and, augmented by numerous artillery units numbering 11,000 men, prepared to defend Corregidor from the Japanese. That attack came on May 5, 1942. The next day Gen. Wainwright, in the face of overwhelming odds and no prospects of relief, decided to surrender the American forces in the Philippines.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
Japanese fire artillery at the British colony of Hong Kong. (Photo: Veterans of Foreign Wars)

4. Battle of Hong Kong

The Americans were not the only targets of the Japanese and so at 8:00 a.m. local time, Japanese forces from mainland China attacked the British Commonwealth forces defending Hong Kong. British, Canadian, and Indian troops manned defensive positions but were woefully undermanned.

Initial attempts to stop the Japanese at the Gin Drinker’s Line, a defensive line to the north of Hong Kong island, were unsuccessful due to a lack of manpower. The defenders also lacked the experience of the Japanese troops that were attacking. Within three days, the defenders had withdrawn from the mainland portion of the colony and set up defenses on the island of Hong Kong.

The Japanese quickly followed and, after British refusal to surrender, attacked across Victoria Harbor on Dec. 19. Less than a week later, on Christmas day 1941, the British surrendered Hong Kong to the Japanese. The survivors endured numerous atrocities at the hands of the Japanese.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
One of Singapore’s 15 inch coastal defence guns elevated for firing. The guns were supplied with armor-piercing shells instead of high explosive ones, and were therefore not very effective against the invading infantry. (Photo: United Kingdom)

5. Malayan Campaign and the Battle of Singapore

Another British target of the Japanese was Singapore for its important strategic location and because it was a strong base for British resistance. In order to capture Singapore, the Japanese launched the Malayan Campaign on Dec. 8, 1941. On the first day of the campaign the Japanese also launched the first aerial bombardment against Singapore.

In an attempt to intercept the Japanese invasion force, the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse were sunk by Japanese aircraft. This left very little in the means of naval power for the British fleet in Singapore.

On land the Commonwealth forces fared no better. The Japanese stormed down the peninsula, forcing the defenders back towards Singapore. By the end of January 1942 the entire peninsula had fallen and the British set in to defend Singapore. The Japanese launched their assault on Singapore on Feb. 8, 1942. Some 85,000 troops stood ready to defend the city but could only hold out for a week before capitulating. This ended British resistance in the Pacific area.

The British lost nearly 140,000 men — the vast majority of whom were captured — in the campaign. As with the fighting elsewhere, the campaign was marked by Japanese cruelty.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia plans to fire missiles during huge NATO drill

The Russian Navy plans to test missiles in international waters off Norway’s coast, Norwegian and NATO officials say, as the Western military alliance conducts its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Oct. 29, 2018, the alliance was informed last week about the planned tests.

“Russia has a sizable presence in the north, also off Norway,” Stoltenberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

“Large [Russian] forces take part in maneuvers and they practice regularly,” he added.


Russian officials did not immediately comment on the planned missile tests, which come amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.

A spokesman for Avinor, which operates Norwegian airports and air-navigation services, said Russia had informed them about the tests in a so-called NOTAM, a notice to pilots about potential hazards along a flight route.

The spokesman, Erik Lodding, told the dpa news agency that it was “a routine message.”

The tests are to take place from Nov. 1-3, 2018, west of the coastal cities of Kristiansund, Molde, and Alesund.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

“There is nothing dramatic about this. We have noted it and will follow the Russian maneuvers,” Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.

On Oct. 25, 2018, NATO launched its Trident Juncture exercise, which Stoltenberg has called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.The live-field exercise is set to run to Nov. 7, 2018.

It involves around 50,000 soldiers, 10,000 vehicles, and more than 300 aircraft and ships from all 29 NATO allies, plus partners Finland and Sweden.

The aim of the drills stretching from the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea is to practice the alliance’s response to an attack on one of its members.

Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of March 18th

It’s Noadamus again, and I’m here welcome to the magical land of right now. Where the past is done and what it means is open to interpretation, the future is so far away you may never live to see it. Right now is the only moment you are guaranteed. Lightning could strike you down a second from now, a car could wander into your lane an hour from now, but right now, you are alive.

So, you should totally check out your horoscope, because if you are gonna die, you might as well open your mind hole to some wisdom from the stars first. Besides, you’ll probably be fine — this week.

See you soon, and remember, do flutter kicks.

Sincerely, Noadamus.


These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Pisces

If you find yourself complaining about free food and booze, stop. It’s free. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. This is a good general rule. Most of the great things we are all blessed with in this life are not of our own making. You’re tall? You can’t take credit for it. You’re naturally creative? It’s a gift. When you take those gifts and develop them and feed them in healthy ways, you should feel both proud and grateful. When your life is perfect, little problems keep you from getting bored and complacent. This week will reminded you to pay attention and review your weaknesses and spend some real time addressing them. It could quite literally save your life this week. So do that PMCS and don’t finger drill it, corporal.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Aries

You have so many secrets that they are beginning to escape into other areas of your life. Wouldn’t it be easier to say f*ck it and just be yourself? You claim to be authentic and you are, for the most part, but don’t try so hard. Who cares if your friends don’t like your relationship choices? They don’t even like their own relationship choices. And if you find yourself doing the walk of shame back to the barracks right before morning PT, everybody will know about it before formation anyway. No point in hiding, so hit the shower and get out there, Marine.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Taurus

This week starts at a steady pace jumps to a sprint by the weekend. You are relentless. Grind everyone to dust with your continuous pace. Keep yourself centered and use this inertia to propel yourself into the future. While everyone around you is spinning, troubles roll right off your back this week. Keep moving this week and your efforts will be soon rewarded. If additional fitness or combatives training presents itself, jump on it. You’ll thank me for it later.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Gemini

A whole lotta excitement is coming your way in the relationship department, but not all of it is good. As the week starts, your social circle is displeased with your relationship choices, but by the end of the weekend, they will have accepted the idea and everyone will probably party their faces off, which means at least everyone’s doing something together. You have many things happening in the background, and by next week they will demand almost all of your attention.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Cancer

You might find yourself wondering how your job can be so incredibly rewarding and terribly soul-crushing at the same time. This is the duality of life, which the Cancer sign represents, btw. Things change — constantly — but before you decide to change things on your terms, take a knee, face out, and drink water. Do what needs to be done this week, the rest might resolve itself. Besides, worrying about it only affects the way you feel.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Leo

This week is a gift; technically, every moment is a gift, but this week is also a time of advancement. Let me rephrase —this is the time where you do the work that will pay off with incredible success later. Spending all week at the range? That will come to fruition soon. Embarking on a new fitness program? A more functional and aesthetically pleasing form awaits you in the near future. Your home and family life is far from perfect, but it is improving. Be grateful for what you have right now while working for a better future. You’re welcome, Chief. Consider yourself counseled.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Virgo

While you might not be the most adventurous person out there normally, this week ramps your risk-taking impulses up 11. Admittedly, you are extremely well suited to be victorious at the current moment, but no one wins at everything. So if the reward is not worth the risk, it’s a waste of valuable and limited time. Go kick some ass and have fun doing it; you deserve it.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Libra

The politics of power rule your home and family life, which is especially true at the moment. However, in addition to being oppressive and restricting, your familial connections are likely to aid in your investment or earning capacity. The secret to gaining this advantage without being consumed by family melodrama: Assert yourself as a powerful and influential member of the family who wishes to improve and grow the family with said advantage, then go do it.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Scorpio

You want the good news or the bad news first? The good news — finances are improving. The bad news — you are still spending way more money than you are bringing in. Money is meant to be spent, right? Totally, but wasting is different than spending. Your relationship is consuming other areas of your life, which is not a bad thing. Just remember you can’t go along with it now and complain about how your life is no longer your own later.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Sagittarius

One of your least favorite things is demanding way too much of your time this week. Yes, it is making you money and providing you with a sense of identity and purpose, but it is also getting in the way of doing whatever you want. Work can be tedious and a job does restrict your freedom, to some degree. But it increases your ability to so many other things you want in your life. So, put on those combat boots and get your ass to formation. Besides, civilians don’t get paid to blow sh*t up. Unless they are in demolitions, or mining, or maybe some other stuff, too…. Just shut up and move out.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Capricorn

Holy intensity, Bat Person! (no trademark infringements here) You are so smoldering right now; just be careful to maintain control over yourself so you don’t explode. Your creativity is ramped up to high this week. I’m not just talking about your much-neglected hobbies. We are talking all creativity. From innovative ideas at work to new moves on the field to your secret poetry (I won’t tell anybody) to creating babies. In this extremely fertile period in your life, remember: Always practice safe poetry.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Aquarius

Listen up, private. The federal income tax system is not a conspiracy to steal the hard earned wealth of the average citizen. Okay, maybe it is a little, but it is also supposed to go to improving and maintaining public services and areas facilities of public use. So, even though you ‘don’t believe in taxes,’ you can still be audited (and just might be this year). So, you should probably review all of those ‘expenses’ you claimed this year.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Silent killers: These are the invisible, respiratory dangers that put our service members at risk

This post is sponsored by O2 Tactical.

You’ve been trained to recognize threats. You can spot an IED, read an unruly crowd, identify enemy armor from klicks away, and you know a predatory car loan when you see one. But what about those threats that don’t keep you up at night? What about the threats you can’t see?


The operational tempo of the last two decades has exposed military personnel to a myriad of dangers on and off the battlefield. While the conducting of combat operations poses the most obvious direct threat to our service members’ health, the existence of more discreet threats should not be overlooked. Respiratory health risks exist, both on the battlefield and in training environments, and mitigation should be prioritized to ensure both the health and safety of our service members and the combat effectiveness of our nation’s armed forces.

Fortunately, unseen doesn’t mean unidentified. Here are a few examples of the most pervasive invisible threats:

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Lead dust exposure

Exposure to lead is an inevitable byproduct of firearms training. When a weapon is fired, small amounts of lead particles are discharged into the air, posing a risk to shooters and weapons instructors alike. These particles are expelled through the ejection port on the firearm as the spent casing is ejected, as well as from the muzzle as the bullet leaves the barrel. Although invisible to the naked eye, these particles can be inhaled and accumulate on skin and clothing.

Because of the occupational necessity of range training time for military, law enforcement and security personnel, this population may be at risk for higher BLL (Blood Lead Levels). Lead is a heavy metal that has long been associated with a variety of health risks ranging from heart and kidney disease to reduced fertility, memory loss and cancer. Children tend to be more susceptible to lead poisoning and may be exposed second-hand through interaction with personnel in contaminated uniforms. These risks can be mitigated by eliminating food and drink at firing ranges, promptly changing clothes after a range session, and of course, proper ventilation at shooting ranges and facilities.

The threats posed by lead dust exposure are very real, and the Department of Defense has taken notice. As of April 2017, DoD made their lead exposure levels more restrictive than the OSHA standard, in an effort to limit the prolonged exposure of personnel. The Army has also published guidance to their personnel as to ways to reduce the risks to themselves and their families.


These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
Iraqi Freedom

Burn pits

Burn pits have been used extensively in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste products, and their use has generated a lot of media attention over the last several years, and with good reason. Thousands of veterans were likely exposed to the harmful fumes caused by the burning of waste products, food scraps, trash, tires, plastics, batteries, and a whole host of other items. Since the Veterans Administration established the voluntary burn pit registry to keep track of burn pit exposure, more than 180,000 veterans have registered. While there are several potential causes of respiratory health problems while deployed, ranging from sandstorms to exposure to diesel exhaust, burn pits are suspected of causing a variety of problems. Some of these include asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart conditions, leukemia and lung cancer.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Asbestos exposure

While less of a concern today, asbestos was a commonly used material for a variety of construction-related purposes from the 1930s to the 1970s. Although the practice of using asbestos ended in the 1970s and the military has made a concerted effort to limit personnel to its exposure, the material remained in buildings for the following decades. The material was used as insulation in walls, floors and pipes, and even in aircraft and vehicle brakes and gaskets. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs, notably the lungs and chest wall. There are many MOS’ that are at higher risk of asbestos exposure to include carpenters, pipefitters, aircraft mechanics, welders, electrician’s mates, and Seabees. For more information regarding asbestos exposure and the benefits available to you, please visit https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/

Service in the military is undoubtedly an honorable profession that comes with inherent hazards to both health and safety. Service members should take control of their safety when it is possible to avoid dangers that are both seen and unseen.

Companies like O2 Tactical are at the forefront in addressing these threats. The company, which is comprised of engineers, designers, veterans and industry experts, has developed the TR2 Tactical Respirator II respiratory system with the operator in mind.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part ten

Any time in life that you do something, you tend to forget the bad and remember the good. I remembered the good. I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember the bad.

For a long time, I talked to a bunch of my peers in the Special Forces community that had made the trip back to Vietnam. They wanted to go back and see what it, see what it was like for whatever reason. Everybody has a personal reason that they want to do it.

I never found a reason because I’ve always had this whole thing in my mind, when I have a traumatic situation – I’ve got a box I put it in my head and I just put it away. After a while, I decided that it was probably time to take some of those back out, and so I said yes going back to Vietnam.


Surprisingly to me, it provided closure to a circle that I didn’t know was open. It was an interesting experience. It was a cathartic experience. It was an experience that closed that loop for me that had been open because I chose not to close it before.

I didn’t know that I needed to do that.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

I’ve been back to Vietnam and I would recommend to anyone who has ever been there in a combat role, go back and look at it. Don’t be afraid of your past. Address it and deal with it.

Make your experience count.

Richard Rice
5th Special Forces Group
US Army 1966-94
Senior Advisor, GORUCK

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

popular

The craziest gifts presented to North Korea

North Korea is the weird kid at the back of the class who keeps making disturbing drawings in his notebook and trying to convince everyone that he’s the coolest.


Still, other countries give North Korea a lot of gifts. Some are presented to the current leader, Kim Jong-un, but a surprising number are still given to Kim Il-sung, a guy who has been dead since 1994, and Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011. The gifts are usually housed at the International Friendship Exhibition, a museum of the bizarre located two hours northeast of Pyongyang.

What do other world leaders get dead and crazy people who already have nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons? Why, a weird-looking Olympic bear, of course.

 

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Photo: Youtube
Misha the bear was the 1980 Summer Olympics mascot. Held in Moscow soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the 1980 Olympics were the only Games boycotted by the U.S.

If the situation calls for something a little grander, North Korean leaders could always use a third personal train. The first was gifted to North Korea by Soviet General Chairman Joseph Stalin and the second came from Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong. They seem to share a paint job, but the Chinese train has better decorations around the windows. Stalin also gave the regime a bulletproof limousine.

Nicaragua’s Sandinista rebels showed their love of Kim Il-sung by gifting him this not-at-all-creepy statue of a crocodile serving drinks.

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Photo: Youtube

 

That’s not the only dead animal on display in the museum. An anonymous Canadian supposedly gave the North Korean leaders a polar bear skin with the head still attached while the leader of Madagascar presented them with a fossilized snail.

 

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Photo: Youtube

 

This dead bear was a gifted by Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu. No one is sure why it was presented with a lazy eye.

 

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Photo: Youtube

Bears are a repeating symbol in the museum. Here, a family of bears plays inside of a large egg because reasons.

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Photo: Youtube

 

And then there’s the plate with an animal walking off of it.

 

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Photo: Youtube

The exhibitions contain many weapons including a hunting rifle from Vladimir Putin and this sword from the N-Trans Group, a Russian transportation company.

Of course, life in North Korea isn’t all about awesome crocodile statues and sweet swords. Some argue that the money expended to build the grand museum would have been better spent feeding starving citizens. They’re probably just jealous of the more than 100,000 total gifts presented to the Kim dynasty.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un is afraid he’ll get assassinated in Singapore

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly fears being assassinated on his way to Singapore to meet with President Donald Trump, a trip that will take him further outside of his country than he’s been since taking power in 2011.

Kim is “extremely worried about security at the summit and is fearful of assassination attempts,” Bloomberg quoted two sources familiar with the talks as saying.

Kim has long feared assassination, even within his own country. But as the leader of a country that frequently threatens the US with nuclear war, getting on a plane and flying across international airspace to a neutral country provides him even less security.


Even along the DMZ with South Korea, Kim traveled with an impressive security detail.

But North Korea has virtually no air force, and will place its leader on a civilian airliner in a region stacked with surface-to-air threats and a large US military aviation presence. As the downing of flight MH-17 proved, airline crashes can be difficult to attribute, and can be denied.

North Korea maintains that the US has a “hostile policy” towards it and think it would attempt regime change given the chance.

Comments from Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton comparing North Korea to Libya, where its leader was killed in a US-backed intervention, may have stoked these fears.

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John Bolton
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

But while Kim’s constant fear of assassination may seem paranoid, it’s not unfounded. China is rumored to have looked into an assassination plot involving Kim’s uncle, whom Kim ended up killing.

Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, was also assassinated in neighboring Malaysia with a nerve agent that authorities suspect Kim ordered.

Furthermore, Kim is more vulnerable to assassination than his counterpart, Trump. Kim is the patriarch of a dynasty, while Trump is just the president.

If Kim dies without a clear successor, his country could descend into chaos.

If a US president dies, there’s a long-established chain of succession, and if North Korea were involved in the death, there would be hell to pay.

Singapore has taken remarkable measures to guarantee the security of the summit, including blocking off parts of the city and restricting airspace during the summit.

Insiders say Kim is seeking security guarantees from the US in exchange for acts of denuclearization, but Kim’s constant fear of assassination points to the inherent instability of his dictatorial rule.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the Coast Guard saved New York from a huge blast

In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.


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Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.

(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)

While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.

The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.

But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guardsmen working on explosive loading details finished loading 1,365 tons of ammo onto the Panamanian freighter El Estero. But before they could even get fully aweigh, smoke started to come up out of the ship’s passageways.

Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.

The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?

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A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.

(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)

But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.

And explosions like this had happened before. Before the U.S. joined World War I, American firms sold arms to each side under equal terms, but British buyers were able to secure more credit while German ones were unlikely to even be able to get their purchases to the fighting thanks to a British blockade. So, German saboteurs blew up the shipping facilities at Black Tom Island in New Jersey, killing at least five people, destroying over million in property, and partially excavating the island.

Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.

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Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.

Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.

But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.

The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.

About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.

The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.

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The El Estero rests mostly below the waves.

(Public Domain)

Miraculously, their work was enough, and the ship was towed out as the nearby cities prepared for an explosion that never came. Fuel barrels on the decks popped and boomed open, but the burnt and exhausted Coast Guardsmen onboard were eventually able to build up enough water in the ship to sink it.

(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)

Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.

All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The fascinating history behind the US President’s nuclear football

The “nuclear football” is guarded by a senior military aide-de-camp and kept in close proximity to the US president whenever he is away from the White House. Following World War II, nuclear weapons were a new reality of the world’s superpowers, and when the US and Soviet Union squared off in the Cold War these superweapons were strategic methods for deterrence. After the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, President John F. Kennedy questioned whether there was a need for a doomsday weapon capability that could allow its operator to order a nuclear strike from anywhere in the world.

“What would I say to the Joint War Room to launch an immediate nuclear strike?” he asked, according to declassified reports. “How would the person who received my instructions verify them?”

The solution was a 45-pound aluminum-framed black leather briefcase, officially called the Presidential Emergency Satchel. It became more commonly known as the nuclear football because the nuclear plan was code-named Operation Dropkick — it needed a “football” to complete the sequence. The most common misconception about the nuclear football is that the president flips a switch or hits a big red button and the world ends moments later. If that were the case, the world should be very concerned. Fortunately, it verifies the identity of the president and connects him to the Pentagon, which is responsible for carrying out the military strike. 

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White House military aide Gen. Chester Clifton carrying the football, with President John F. Kennedy and David Powers, approaching the “cottage” at Hyannis Port, May 10, 1963, where Kennedy was about to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Photo courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

In 1980, Bill Gulley, the former director of the White House Military Office, wrote a tell-all book, Breaking Cover, describing the shady money deals under four different administrations — those of Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. The Washington Post gave Gulley, who even disclosed the different components of the nuclear football, the unflattering title of the “mercenary snitch.” 

“There are four things in the Football,” Gulley writes. “The Black Book containing the retaliatory options, a book listing classified site locations, a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Broadcast System, and a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes [which the president usually carries separately from the football].”

Carter later found these retaliatory options super complicated, so he started the process of simplifying the nuclear codes, or “the biscuit.” Air Force Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson, a senior military aide-de-camp responsible for President Bill Clinton’s nuclear football, explained the refined codes were similar to a “Denny’s breakfast menu” because “it’s like picking one out of Column A and two out of Column B.” On the day when the Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal hit the national press, the president forgot where he had put the nuclear football.

“I was floored — and so was the Pentagon,” Patterson recalled. “It had never happened before.”

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Football carrier Lt. Cmdr. T. Stephen Todd, a naval aide, with President Gerald Ford leaving the White House, May 5, 1975. Photo courtesy of A4417—13A, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.

Although Clinton once lost the nuclear football and then left it behind at a NATO meeting on another occasion, he wasn’t the only president guilty of misplacing the highly sensitive and secret world-ending capability. Carter lost the biscuit when he left the card in his suit and it was sent to the dry cleaners. When President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981, his biscuit was thrown away in a trash can in the George Washington University Hospital. 

The most recent ordeal involving the nuclear football came in 2017 when President Donald Trump visited China. A scuffle between Chinese security officials and the US Secret Service ensued after the nuclear football wasn’t allowed inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. 

“Then there was a commotion,” Axios reported in 2018. “A Chinese security official grabbed [Chief of Staff John] Kelly, and Kelly shoved the man’s hand off of his body. Then a U.S. Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground.”

Since the nuclear football was first photographed on May 10, 1963, it has become the focus of the media, a concern for foreign governments, and a token of strength and military might for the US government. It was even replicated by the Soviet Union, which created its own version called the Cheget.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous pilot once dangled from his plane by the machine gun

Louis A. Strange was a British Pilot who would lead aerial forces in World War I and World War II, eventually rising to the rank of wing commander and earning top British awards like the Distinguished Service Order and Officer of the Order of the British Empire, which is lucky, because he almost died as a young pilot when he fell out of his plane and was left hanging from the machine gun.


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Royal Flying Corps Lt. Louis A. Strange was a pioneering pilot and officer for Britain in World War I and II, but he nearly died in 1915 when he accidentally flipped his plane and barely hung on to a malfunctioning machine gun drum.

(Imperial War Museums)

It happened during World War I when the young pilot became a pioneer by being one of the first pilots to strap a machine gun to his plane in 1914 (he might have even been the first allied pilot to do so). But early aviation machine guns were literally just machine guns designed for the trenches, and they didn’t always lend themselves well to aerial combat.

In 1915, Strange was flying his Martinsyde S.1 scout plane with a machine gun mounted when he spotted a German observer and began trading fire with it. Strange quickly ran through the ammo in his weapon’s drum and attempted to reload it, but the drum was jammed on the weapon.

He attempted to pry it off to no avail, and finally stood up to get better leverage on the drum. He was attempting to keep the plane steady in the process, but made some mistake. The plane flipped upside down, and Strange slipped out of his seat and found himself dangling from the machine gun, high in the air.

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A Martinsyde scout biplane from World War I.

(Royal Engineers)

In John F. Ross’s Enduring Courage, Strange is quoted as saying:

Only a few seconds previously, I had been cursing because I could not get that drum off, but now I prayed fervently that it would stay on forever.

But that wasn’t the only problem for Strange. His plane’s engine wasn’t designed to run upside down with no pilot at the controls, and so the engine quickly shut off.

So he was dangling by a faulty machine gun drum from a slowly crashing airplane in an active combat zone. But he kept a cool head, watching for where he might crash while also attempting to get his feet back into the cockpit. He managed to hook an ankle on the plane and then get a leg on the stick and flip the plane back over.

He fell back into the plane, which was welcome, but he also fell too hard and fast, crashing through his seat in a way that jammed the stick, making it impossible for him to steer, a big problem since he was still heading for the ground. And then the engine turned back on, speeding his descent.

He had to shove the remnants of the seat out of the way, but was then able to move the stick and raise the plane’s nose, gaining altitude with little room to spare over the trees. He headed back for home and slept for 12 hours.

But, as mentioned before, the survival of Strange would prove to be a great boon to Britain. He had previously earned one award for valor in World War I, and he would go on to earn three high medals over the rest of World War I and II.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Don Nicholas joined the military twice. The second time was for a reason soldiers don’t often give. His first enlistment began as a Marine in 1971. He spent the war on an aircraft carrier and didn’t set foot in South Vietnam until the war was over. He re-enlisted to land a spot as an embassy Marine in Saigon in 1974. He was on the second-to-last American helicopter leaving the city as it fell in 1975. He left active duty in 1978.

In 2004, he came back. The Marines thought he was too old at age 52. But for the Army Reserve, he was just what the doctor ordered. Literally.


It’s really not a fascination with war itself,” Sgt. Nicholas, who became a podiatrist in the intervening years, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more trying to keep people from getting killed. I’m taking the spot of some 19-year-old.”
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The now-Army NCO Nicholas’ Marine Corps Saigon Embassy ID photo.

(Don Nicholas)

In 2011, he was 59 years old, the oldest of 6,000 troops in the 25th Infantry Division sent to eastern Afghanistan. He tried for years to get back into the military after his service ended. He tried during Desert Storm and again after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t until the height of the Iraq War that the Army was ready to take a man of his skill and advanced age.

Though “advanced” is a term used only because the Army’s average age of enlistees back in 2004 was somewhere between 30 and 35. Nicholas’ wife says his return to service actually replenished his youthful vigor.

He doesn’t want the other 19-year-olds to go,” Mrs. Nicholas said. But “it makes him 19 again. He finds youth in the military.”
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Don Nicholas in Afghanistan.

(Fox News/Daily Mail UK)

After his initial re-enlistment in 2004, he was sent to Iraq for 11 months. After a brief stay back at home, he redeployed to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, among other places. At age 60, he would be ordered out of the battlefields of Afghanistan due to age restrictions. Instead, he fought to stay in Kunar Province of Afghanistan for another year, pushing back against the military’s attempted mandatory retirement. He has only seen 16 years of active service and wants to complete 20 years.

If I have my chance to stay in and complete my 20 years. I absolutely would,” he told the Daily Mail. “Probably would stay in a few more years after that if I could.” As of 2011, he was hoping his podiatry practice could get him attached to a medical unit.
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