This was the West Point graduation on D-Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, hundreds of Army leaders waited tensely for a moment that they’d been preparing for four long years: their graduation ceremony. During that ceremony, an Army general took the podium and confirmed to them that another long-awaited moment had come that same morning: the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe.


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The cadets, crammed into lines of chairs inside a large building, included Cadet John Eisenhower, the son of D-Day commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Eisenhower is called to the stage to receive his diploma in the video above, the crowd erupts into a burst of applause.

West Point graduates, typically commissioned into the Army on the same day they graduate, in 1944 knew that they would be involved in the final long, slow push to Berlin. Indeed, Eisenhower would go on to serve in Europe in World War II and fight in Korea before going into the Army Reserve and eventually retiring.

The crowd at the graduation was likely not surprised by the news. American radio stations first caught wind of the invasion hours earlier when German stations announced that it had begun. As the morning wore on, Allied commanders confirmed the reports and then allowed the BBC, stationed on a ship bombarding the French shore, to begin broadcasting.

By the time the sun rose over West Point, the news was well-known. But, the three-star confirming the invasion was probably still a welcome confirmation for many. After all, there were false reports of an invasion only three days earlier when a BBC teletype operator accidentally hit the wrong key.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

7 ways to mentor a military girlfriend and renew confidence in yourself at the same time

There are so many resources for military spouses and service members, but the military girlfriends and boyfriends are often forgotten. In military dating life, the best resources possible are the men and women who have been there, done that.


After mentoring a young military girlfriend, I realized after the fact that the experience may have done me just as much good as it did her. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey as a milspouse/girlfriend and see the many obstacles I’ve overcome in the process.

My husband and I dated for nearly five years before we got married, which included living together for three and a half years. To be honest, this felt like forever, especially since we moved from the East Coast to Alaska during that time. We never experienced the carefree dating experience that some do, as I was a single mom already when we met. I moved to be closer to him within months of the start of our relationship and knew no one in town. I had a minor emergency one day and called him in a panic. He couldn’t physically help me at the moment, but he remembered that one of his coworkers happened to live in my neighborhood, so he connected me with the spouse of said service member. Long story short, she saved my day!

I will never forget my first encounter (as a military girlfriend) with a military spouse. She dropped what she was doing to help out a stranger in need. She told me afterward if I ever needed anything to never hesitate to reach out, and she meant it. She sprinkled snippets of wisdom over me during the next two years whenever our paths crossed. She was brutally honest about the things that frustrated her about military life, but she always did it with a laugh and a follow-up of something she loved about that same life. Fifteen years and many cross-country duty stations later, she is still there on the other end of the line (or Facebook messenger) whenever I need her. Both of us are more “seasoned” now than we were all those years ago, but the truth is we still have value to bring to each other’s lives and military journey. I will be forever grateful for her influence in my life, and I truly feel it set the pace for how I’ve approached every military spouse or girlfriend ever since.

Here are seven ways to mentor a military girlfriend:

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

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Remember that girlfriends matter too.

We’ve all been there; just some spent much longer unwed than others. Give them hope. Share your pride in your journey. All these new trials are temporary. Some will resurface again from time to time in your military journey (hello PCS), but let her know that with each experience, she will grow and be better prepared to handle it next time. Whatever she’s stressing about, it’s likely you’ve been there. You’ll find yourself after this counseling session with a renewed appreciation for your own experiences.

Pay it forward. 

Someone at some point in your journey held your hand and gave you strength or advice when you needed it most. There’s no one better than a seasoned military spouse to do this as long as you’re mindful and empathetic, not condescending. Sometimes a military girlfriend needs to be reminded that ALL military spouses have been the outsider at some point…no one gets married before spending some amount of time first dating that lucky hero. A good deed like mentoring will always leave you feeling full of gratitude for all who mentored you along the way.

Know that you’re both worth it. 

Simply by giving your time, you are rescuing another from loneliness in some form or another. YOUR soul will benefit from that quality time with her as well. Valuable life lessons you’ve experienced are worth talking about. You never know when your story may help someone down the road. We often have no clue what battles others are facing or when they will arise, so when you take the time to share your personal challenges and victories, you are offering value whether you realize it or not.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Good vibes.

Teach her to focus on the positive while still being aware of the potential negative. Don’t allow stress to cloud all judgement. Release the weight of what you can’t control, and not only will your life outlook change, but so will your LIFE. Hello? We all need this reminder!

Share your strength.

Unpredictability may be totally new to her. Help her see the perks and seize the opportunities that come her way. No better excuse to “just do it” than knowing that the chance to do so may not last long. Military life offers the perfect time to see just how brave you can be, and in the end, it’s totally empowering!

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Give her resources.

You’ll find yourself digging through your internal toolkit and will be amazed at what you pull out of there for her! Links, groups, and ideas will all be helpful, and you’ll likely run across a few you forgot existed but quickly realize how handy they will be in your own life again now that they’ve resurfaced.

Show her love.

Teach her about military spouse bonds and how vital it is to build relationships within the community. It’s okay that she isn’t yet married, many of the issues she’s facing don’t discriminate between married/unmarried couples. Show her that she’s never alone and remind yourself of the same while you’re at it. Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that one, and it’s one of the most important lessons of all.

Articles

This museum sub may find new life as artificial reef

A submarine that just missed serving in World War II may soon find itself making one last dive off the coast of Florida.


This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
USS Clamagore as a GUPPY II. She was later converted into a GUPPY III, and is the last surviving vessel of that type. (US Navy photo)

According to WPTV.com, the Balao-class submarine USS Clamagore (SS 343) could be towed to a point off Palm Beach County and sunk as an artificial reef. The vessel is currently at the Patriot’s Point Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, along with the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV 10) and the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724).

According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the Clamagore is the only surviving GUPPY III-class submarine in the world. Nine GUPPY III-class submarines were built. According to a web page serving as a tribute to these diesel-electric submarines, most of the vessels modified under the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program were scrapped, sunk as targets, or sold to foreign countries.

The reason she is going to wind up becoming a reef? The report from WPTV states it is about money.

“The museum up in Charleston is losing money and they would really like to unload this as quickly as possible,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche told the TV station. The alternative to turning the 2,480-ton submarine into an artificial reef is to scrap her.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
USS Clamagore SS-343 at Charleston, South Carolina November 24, 2003. This is the only surviving GUPPY III diesel-electric submarine in the world. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“We wanted to honor the people that served on it, we wanted to honor the submarine service in general,” Valeche said.

Several organizations are trying to save the Clagamore for continued service as a museum. A 2012 FoxNews.com report indicated that at least $3 million was needed to repair the vessel.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.

The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.


Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.

The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.

The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.

Growing shortfalls and falling retention

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, walks out to an F-35A Lightning II with Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, before his final qualification flight Sept. 26, 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”

Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)

“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.

Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”

But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
The Air Force’s fighter-pilot shortfall has grown significantly over the past several years.

Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.

Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.

The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.

These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.

“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.

A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)

The services have also struggled to retain pilots.

The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.

Stop-gap measures

Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”

The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots April 8, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.

But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention

A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”

Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.

The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.

It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
Maj. Tyler Ellison, a Thunderbirds pilot, administers the oath of enlistment to enlist Florida’s newest airmen during the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-in and Expo Air Show at Lakeland, Florida, April, 25, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.

Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.

The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.

“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.

The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia detains retired Marine on espionage charges

The family of a U.S. citizen being held by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) over suspected spying says he is innocent and was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Paul Whelan, a retired Marine, was last heard from on Dec. 28, 2018, according to a statement from his family, obtained by RFE/RL on Jan. 1, 2019.

His failure to contact his family “was very much out of character for him,” the statement said.


“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” it added.

Whelan, 48, could face between 10 to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Russian officials did not disclose any details of his alleged involvement in espionage.

David Whelan told RFE/RL in a direct message via Twitter that his brother “has a corporate security role” with BorgWarner, a U.S.-based supplier of automotive parts and components.

Brother of accused spy speaks out

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BorgWarner said in a statement sent to RFE/RL on Jan. 1, 2019, that Paul Whelan was the company’s global security director. It added that he is responsible for overseeing the company’s facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, “and at other company locations around the world.”

BorgWarner has 60 manufacturing sites in 18 countries, but none of them are listed as being in Russia.

A spokeswoman for BorgWarner told RFE/RL that the company “does not have any facilities in Russia.”

Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rostec said in 2013 that its truckmaker, KamAz, had a long record of collaboration with a subsidiary of BorgWarner known as BorgWarnerTurboSystems.

David Whelan told AP in a Jan. 1, 2019 interview that his brother had been to Russia “several times” before and was helping a former U.S. Marine friend of his plan a wedding with a Russian woman.

On the morning of the day he was detained, Paul Whelan had given a tour of the Kremlin museums to a group of wedding guests, his brother said. He failed to show up for the wedding on the evening of Dec. 28, 2018.

David Whelan said his absence led the family to fear he had been in a car accident or perhaps mugged, and were searching the Internet for news about “dead Americans in Moscow.”

The U.S. State Department has said it knows about “the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities” and had been formally notified by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The State Department said on Dec. 31, 2018, that it had requested consular access to Paul Whelan and expected “Russian authorities to provide it.”

David Whelan said in the AP interview that his family was told by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that it has been unable to speak with Paul Whelan.

David Whelan said his brother had previously worked for Kelly Services, an international office-staffing company that does have offices in Moscow, and had been to Russia on business and to visit friends he had met on social-media networks.

Paul Whelan reportedly had a page on the Russian social-media site VKontakte on which he writes messages in basic Russian.

David Whelan said his brother was stationed in Iraq several times with the U.S. Marines and has been living in Novi, Michigan.

The announcement of Whelan’s detainment came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow remains open to dialogue with Washington in a New Year’s greeting to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Relations between the United States and Russia remain strained over a raft of issues including Russia’s role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Britain.

At the end of November 2018, Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina, citing tensions after Russian forces opened fire on Ukrainian Navy boats before seizing them and capturing 24 Ukrainian sailors.

The detention of Whelan comes weeks after Russian Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

In his annual year-end news conference on Dec. 20, 2018, Putin said Russia would “not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else later on.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Japan’s F-35 aircraft carrier will be a Chinese navy killer

Japan on Dec. 18, 2018, announced what everyone had long suspected: Its Izumo-class “helicopter carriers” would host F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-launch stealth jets, and the platform will be transformed into a weapon Tokyo hasn’t wielded since 1945.

Japan announced on Dec. 18, 2018, that it would change its defense guidelines and buy 105 more F-35A stealth jets, as well as roughly 40 F-35Bs that can take off vertically from its flat-decked Izumo ships.


Japan said it would retrofit its two Izumo carriers to handle the extreme heat and pressure of the F-35B’s vertical launches from the decks in a pivot from its post-World War II pacifist stance, citing rising threats from China, Russia, and North Korea.

Japan has long sought a long-range, fifth-generation aircraft to defend its far-flung island claims as Russia and China routinely test its borders with fighter jets buzzing its borders, but the US hasn’t yet offered it anything that can do the job.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

F-35B prepares for a vertical landing.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)

The F-22, the US’ first fifth-generation fighter, came across as an ideal solution for Japan’s defense needs, but the US refused to sell, saying the cutting-edge technology was too critical to share.

The F-35, of which Japan wants to become the world’s second-largest buyer, has much of the F-22’s stealth and avionics prowess, but has much shorter range.

But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, putting F-35s on a carrier at sea that can close range to island flash points, Japan may have finally solved its problem.

“This is about being able to put capable air power near some of their island possessions, especially given that there’s a lot of Chinese capability being specifically developed to hit forward air bases,” Bronk told Business Insider, referencing China’s growing rocket force.

“Having something mobile that’s harder to hit that can deploy fifth-generation air power makes a lot of military sense,” Bronk said of the carriers.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Not just island defense, but a navy killer

Japan’s Izumo carriers occupy the traditional role of launching an amphibious attack to take or retake an island with while providing air power overhead, but the F-35s bring something that attack helicopters just can’t do.

China has deployed a “great wall” of missile defenses around the South China Sea and its mainland. China’s ever-growing navy also patrols the water with increasingly powerful air defenses.

“Basically, any naval task group worth the name is, from an airman’s perspective, a formidable mobile air defense network,” Bronk said. China’s navy ships have “powerful radars, very large interceptor missiles, and are designed to defend against swarming attacks,” he said.

Unlike air-to-air missiles limited in size by the jets that have to carry them, ship-based missile interceptors can measure more than 20 feet in length and have powerful boosters giving them better range and speed. Additionally, recent Chinese navy ships have emphasized these kinds of missiles and have deep magazines and many vertical launch cells for the aircraft-killing missiles.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey with the JS Izumo (right) on the South China Sea.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)

But China’s navy likely has very little experience fighting stealth aircraft with its sea-based radars.

The stealth design of the F-35B will allow Japan’s military to “to operate at reasonable risk tolerance of advanced air defenses,” said Bronk, who called the jets “a lot more survivable in high-end warfare” than Japan’s fleet of F-15s.

In the future, Bronk said Japan will most likely leverage the F-35B’s extreme surveillance and recon capabilities to provide weapons-quality target information to other platforms, like Japanese or US warships, which can fire off their own missiles and allow the F-35Bs to stay in stealth mode without opening up the weapons bay.

For Japan, the new class of F-35B carriers signals a major shift in defense posture and the acknowledgement that defending their island claims may require high-end warfighting against China’s navy.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The self-defense umbrella will make you feel like a Kingsman

In the United States, you don’t need to get dressed in your best formal attire to carry an umbrella. But you do need a permit to carry a weapon in many areas, if you’re allowed to carry one at all. For those who are worried about self-defense but won’t or can’t carry an equalizer, you’re in luck.

Would-be attackers, however, are not.


Unbreakable® Umbrella vs. Coconuts – Le Parapluie Incassable – Der Unzerbrechliche Regenschirm

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The Unbreakable Umbrella is elegant enough not to attract unwanted attention and is legal to carry anywhere. The best part is that it really is also a durable umbrella that won’t fall short in that area either.

It’s the brainchild of Thomas Kurz, a leading expert on athletic flexibility training and stretching. A Polish immigrant, Kurz studied physical education at Warsaw’s University School of Physical Education, then coached Judo and a number of other olympic-level sports.

Kurz is also an expert on self-defense instruction. He created the Unbreakable Umbrella in 2004 as a means for an individual to defend themself against an armed attacker, even when no other weapon is available.

The umbrella is as strong and sturdy as a steel pipe but weighs just short of two pounds. The secret is in its “unbreakable” construction, made of aluminum alloys and steel or a proprietary fiberglass-polyester composite, depending on the type of umbrella purchased.

The best part is that no matter what kind of umbrella you prefer there’s an Unbreakable Umbrella for you. Be it the compact, telescoping kind seen on the streets of cities everywhere or the more elegant walking-stick model with or without a curved handle (the kind that would give you that “Kingsmen” look), they have you covered.

Kurz and the crew at Unbreakable Umbrellas have many, many instructional and demonstrative videos on YouTube and the Unbreakable Umbrella website. They range from keeping an assailant from attempting to take your new umbrella to fending off attackers who bring double-fisted knives to the fight.

While most people aren’t going to have to fight off a dual-wielding knife attack, it’s good to know that you could if you wanted to. To learn more about Unbreakable Umbrellas, visit the website.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the first woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion

Throughout the bloody and horrific history of human warfare, there are tons of stories of heroism in the face of great danger. Troops all over the world have been willing to risk life and limb to ensure the safety of others and that’s worth celebrating. Everyone knows about war heroes like John Basilone, but how many of you know about Susan Travers? If you don’t, you should.

Susan Travers, quite simply, was one badass woman. She left behind a pampered life and a wealthy family to do something great. One thing led to another and she eventually became the only woman to ever be allowed to join the prestigious French Foreign Legion, which only allowed male foreign nationals.

Here’s how she went from the daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and heiress to being one of the most badass women in all of history:


This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

A Finnish ski patrol, lying in the snow on the outskirts of a wood in Northern Finland, on the alert for Russian troops, January 12, 1940.

(Imperial War Museums)

The Winter War

Travers initially joined up as a nurse, but quickly realized she didn’t like the sight of blood or sickness and subsequently became an ambulance driver with the French Expeditionary Force. She was sent to Finland to assist during their Winter War against the Soviets, but everything changed when France fell to the Nazis.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Parade of the 13th DBLE through Roman ruins in Lambaesis, Algeria.

General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces

When the Nazis took France, Travers went to London to get in the fight. There, she was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion. It was there she shed her disgust for blood and gore and became accustomed to the rough life of a warfighting badass. She earned the nickname “La Miss” from her male comrades. This was when she started driving for higher-ups.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

General Dwight D. Eisenhower with Gen. Pierre Koenig, Military Commander General of Paris, and Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley. August 27, 1944.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

1st Free French Brigade

After spending several months as a driver for senior officers and demonstrating her extreme aptitude for navigating the most dangerous conditions, including minefields and rocket attacks, she was assigned as the driver for the Commanding Officer of the 1st Free French Brigade, Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Free French Foreign Legionnaires “leap up from the desert to rush an enemy strong point”, Bir Hacheim, June 12, 1942.

(Photo by Chetwyn Len)

Fort of Bir Hakeim

It was in May, 1942, when Rommel’s Afrika Korps geared up to attack the Fort at Bir Hakeim. Koenig ordered all the women to evacuate, but Travers refused to leave, becoming the only woman among at least 3,500 men. Rommel assumed the fort would be taken in 15 minutes but, instead, the Free French held out for fifteen days.

Eventually, their supplies ran low, and Koenig led a breakout, trying to evade minefields and German tanks. Being the Colonel’s driver, Travers truly led the breakout; however, the convoy was discovered when one of the convoy’s vehicles ran over a landmine. Travers stepped on the gas.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Susan Travers in Northern Africa.

A “delightful feeling”

Upon discovery, the convoy fell under heavy machine gun fire, and Travers just kept laying on the accelerator. She’s quoted as saying,

“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark. My main concern was that the engine would stall.”

She broke through the German lines, creating a gap through which the rest could follow. After they made it to Allied lines, she discovered the vehicle had at least 11 bullet holes in it and sustained severe shrapnel damage. After that, Koenig was sent to Northern Africa to continue the fight while Travers remained with the Legion, seeing action in Italy, Germany, and France. She was eventually wounded when she drove over a landmine.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

In 2000, she published her memoirs.

French Foreign Legion

In May of 1945, Travers applied to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She “failed” to mention her gender and they accepted her into their ranks. This made her the first — and only — woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion.

She eventually was sent to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War and, by the end of her career, earned the Medaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, and the Legion d’honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits).

MIGHTY MOVIES

There’s a ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ movie…and we’re speechless?

A trailer dropped today for a Sonic the Hedgehog film and honestly I don’t know how to feel about it.

The Lego film proved that anything is on the table with regards to nostalgia and storytelling. There’s no reason not to make a Sonic the Hedgehog film — 9/10 90’s kids agree that game was radical — and yet…I just don’t know if these guys can pull this one off.

Check out the trailer — and then let’s discuss.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvvZaBf9QQI
Sonic The Hedgehog (2019) – Official Trailer – Paramount Pictures

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Watch the trailer:

Now, the best thing they did was use Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise in this trailer. Coolio was both a firefighter and a crack addict and this song evokes that exact combination. It always has. It always will. When Gangsta’s Paradise plays, sh** is about to go down (which reminds me: who else was today old when they learned that there’s an entire Sonic fetish subculture? Don’t look into it at work).

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The film is a live-action adventure comedy about Sonic and his new human friend Tom Wachowski (played by Cyclops James Marsden, the hero gets Jody’d in every film he’s in) as they take on Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik.

In the trailer, our fast friend captures the attention of the U.S. military when he causes an energy surge that knocks out power across the entire Pacific Northwest. They team up with Dr. Robotnik to track down the little fella, presumably unaware that Robotnik is one of the most notorious 90s villains out there.

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You can’t trust anyone with a mustache, but I wouldn’t expect a room full of brass to understand that.

Sonic the Hedgehog premieres on Nov. 8, 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Air Force veteran started the Make-A-Wish Foundation

To say Make-A-Wish Foundation founder Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.

They stopped in Michigan for five years.


When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”

In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.

Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”

Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.

In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”

Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”

When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”

Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”

Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.

“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”

The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”

“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 480,000 wishes have been granted.

Shankwitz said, “Every 26 to 28 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”

More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix.

popular

This is what it’s like to fire an 81mm mortar

Artillery is the king of the battlefield, but the big artillery pieces can’t be everywhere at once – and sometimes their response time is pretty long. Thankfully, for the grunts of today, the mortar is available. Think of this as portable artillery – capable of providing some very quick-response fire support for grunts.


The M252 Medium Weight Extended Range Mortar fits right into a vital niche, especially for lighter infantry units like the 10th Mountain Division, 82nd Airborne Division, and Marine units. According to a fact sheet from the Minnesota National Guard, this system weighs 91 pounds and is operated by a crew of three. That said, usually there will be other guys assigned to help carry additional rounds.

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
Spc. Scott Davis, mortarman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, adjusts the sights of an M252A1 mortar system. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Petke/released)

The system can fire up to 30 rounds a minute, but you’re more likely to sustain a rate of 16 rounds a minute. A wide variety of ammo is available as well – anything from high explosive rounds to illumination flares to smoke rounds to white phosphorous. In short, this mortar, usually held at the battalion level of the light units, can do anything from concealing friendly troops to marking targets to blowing bad guys to smithereens.

As is the case with Ma Deuce and machine guns, mortar crews need proper training and plenty of practice to make the most of these systems. The procedures can be rehearsed sometimes using the M880 short-range round, but other times, you need to go out to the range and do the live-fire “full Monty.”

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day
U.S. Army soldiers fire mortar rounds at suspected Taliban fighting positions during Operation Mountain Fire in Barge Matal, a village in eastern Nuristan province, Afghanistan. (US Army photo)

You can see troops train on the M252 at the mortar range at the Grafenwoehr training area in the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these Vietnam War veterans honor Old Glory

Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.

“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”

The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.


It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.

Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War

www.youtube.com

“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”

It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.

One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.

The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.

“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”

At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.

“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.

Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.

“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”

Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.

On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This milspouse made the latest cut on ‘American Idol’

American Idol is back this year on ABC with Ryan Seacrest and new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. They’ve just announced the Top 24 and there’s a military spouse who’s made it this far in the competition.

Jurnee (just one name and she says it’s real) is an 18-year-old hostess from Denver, CO. Her wife, Ashley, serves in the U.S. Army.


Check out Jurnee’s audition video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XhRdvPZxY

www.youtube.com

After Hollywood Week, Jurnee learned she made it to the Top 24 and performed Never Enough for her Idol Showcase. Ashley, who’s soon to be deployed, made it to Los Angeles for the performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRMBMs6ZLPw

www.youtube.com

Longtime Idol viewers will notice the way that the producers are presenting her (ahem) journey means that they’re setting up Jurnee to have a long run on the show (if she continues to perform with the ability she’s demonstrated so far). We’ll be tuning in and following her progress in the weeks to come.