This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Even Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces need heroes at times — those times when the fighting gets too thick and there are wounded that need attention on the ground. Those heroes are the Air Force’s Pararescue Jumpers; highly-trained airmen who will come retrieve anyone who needs it, almost anywhere, and in nearly any situation.

Just earning the title of what the Air Force affectionately calls a “PJ” is a grueling task. Dubbed “Superman School,” Pararescue training takes two years and has a dropout rate of around 80 percent. And PJs put all of this rigorous training to use in their everyday duties, when it matters the most. It’s not exaggeration to say they are among the most decorated airmen in the Air Force — and none of them are more decorated than Duane Hackney.


Over the course of his career, Hackney stacked on an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, four distinguished flying crosses (with combat V), two Purple Hearts, and 18 Air Medals, just to name a few highlights of the more-than-70 decorations he amassed in his life.

His achievements made him the most decorated airman in Air Force history.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Like the rest of his fellow Pararescue Jumpers, he was in the right place at the right time to earn those accolades. Unfortunately, “right place at the right time” for a PJ means “terrible time to be anywhere in the area” for everyone else. Jumping into the dense jungles of North Vietnam to recover downed pilots and special operators was incredibly dangerous work.

With the rest of the allied ground forces in South Vietnam, once lowered into the jungles, PJs were truly on their own down there.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Duane Hackney had no illusions about the dangers he faced when on a mission. The Michigan native joined the Air Force specifically to become a Pararescueman — and the NVA made sure Duane and his fellow PJs had their work cut out for them. The North Vietnamese air defenses were good — very good. Despite the massive air campaigns launched over Vietnam, the U.S. couldn’t always count on complete air superiority. Massive surface-to-air missile complexes and well-trained NVA pilots flying the latest Soviet fighters ensured plenty of work for the Air Force. Whenever a pilot went down, they sent the PJs to find them

Duane Hackney went on more than 200 search-and-rescue missions in just under four years in Vietnam. He lost track of how many times he went into those jungles or how many times the enemy opened up a deadly barrage as he went. It was part of the job, and it was a job Hackney did extremely well.

It wasn’t easy. Just days into his first tour in Vietnam, Hackney took a .30-caliber slug to the leg. He had another PJ remove it and treat the wound rather than allow himself be medically evacuated out of the country. He was in five helicopters as they were shot down over North Vietnam, putting himself and those aircrews in the same risk as the pilots they were sent to rescue — captured troops could look forward to a quick death or a long stay in the “Hanoi Hilton.”

On one mission in February, 1967, Hackney jumped into a dense area of North Vietnam, in the middle of a massed enemy force. He extracted a downed pilot and made it back to his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Helicopter. As they left, the NVA tore into the helo with 37mm flak fire. Hackney secured his parachute to the downed pilot and he went to grab another parachute. The rest of the people aboard the helicopter would be killed in the explosion that shot Hackney out the side door.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Hackney managed to grab a chute before being fired out the side. He deployed it as he hit the trees below, fell another 80 feet, and landed on a ledge in a crevasse. The NVA troops above him were jumping over the crevasse, looking for him. Hackney managed to make it back to the wreckage of the helicopter to look for survivors. Finding none, he signaled to be picked up himself.

That incident over the Mu Gia Pass earned Hackney the Air Force Cross. At the time, he was the youngest man to receive the award and the only living recipient of it. But Hackney didn’t stop there. Despite that close call, he stayed in Vietnam for another three years — as a volunteer for his entire stay in country.

He stayed in the Air Force until his retirement as Chief Master Sergeant Hackney in 1991.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

In the sun-blasted, 100-degree heat here, a military working dog is being held on a short leash. Rex, a German shepherd, is a muscular 85 pounds and covered in thick, brown fur.

His partner and handler, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Fuentes, a master-at-arms, barks out commands, but Rex’s wagging tail signals that his mind is elsewhere.

An observer suggests that the humans take off their hats for comfort.


This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)

“I wouldn’t do that,” Fuentes said.

Why? Does Rex become aggressive with the removal of hats? Is it a signal to attack?

No. Rex loves to steal hats to play with, Fuentes said. Rex likes to play with a lot of things. He looks for fun wherever he is —and of course does not know he has been diagnosed with cancer.

Rex, officially known as military working dog T-401, was diagnosed while being treated for an ear infection.

“I noticed dry spots on his ears,” Fuentes said. “I waited a little bit to mention it to the vet since I thought it was a reaction to the medicine.”

Fuentes said that ear infections are common in military working dogs that are deployed to desert areas because of the large amount of sand that gets into their ears, which, in Rex’s case, are prominent.

Testing, Diagnosis

Rex was first examined in March by the Camp Lemonnier veterinarian, Army Capt. Richard Blair. During a follow-up examination, Blair noticed other skin lesions that raised additional concerns.

“We had to dig deeper to determine what was really going on,” Blair said. Possible reason for the lesions included a reaction to the medication, a skin infection, or even allergies.

While the facilities at Camp Lemonnier are appropriate for the everyday care of working dogs, the base does have some limitations due to its remote location, Blair said. So, he worked with other vets in the area of operation to determine what caused the lesions.

“After some logistics challenges, we were able to get our samples submitted to a pathology lab in Germany,” Blair said. “After a few weeks, we got the results back.”

Fuentes said that he was working with Rex at the dog kennel on base when his kennel master got the call from Blair.

“Cancer was the last thing I would have thought of,” Fuentes said. “My heart sank when I heard the news.”

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Military working dogs form strong bonds with their handlers.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

Getting Care, Beach Time

Rex has been a military working dog his entire life. He’s been deployed several times, including two tours here.

His behavior has not changed since the diagnosis, Fuentes said. He’s still a sweet dog who just wants to play tug of war.

Fuentes reached down and scratched Rex between his ears.

The bonds between service members can be strong. Serving in a combat zone, working long hours, getting through stressful situations and living together in small spaces has a way of making the bonds stronger.

Rex and Fuentes live together in a 7-by-20 container. Fuentes joked that Rex likes to take up all of it.

“He’s obnoxious,” Fuentes said. “He’s all up in your business, taking all of your space.”

The data on dogs with cancer is not as complete as it is on humans with cancer, Blair said. As a result, Rex’s prognosis isn’t certain, but getting him sent back to the U.S. is vital to his treatment.

At home, “he can get to more definitive care,” Blair said.

Rex will be redeployed in early August. His retirement paperwork has also been started.

After retirement, Rex “won’t have to work and can enjoy the rest of his life — just chilling,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes is scheduled to redeploy with Rex and said he hopes to adopt him — but he isn’t the only person trying. A former handler is also interested.

“It’s a race to the end to see who gets him,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes will be returning to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Rex has never been to the beach, he said, and he’d like to take him there.

​Honorable Service

Navy Capt. Charles J. DeGilio, Camp Lemonnier’s commander, presented Rex with a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal at a ceremony here July 27.

DeGilio said that military working dogs, including Rex, fill an important role.

“Rex has served honorably to help keep the men and women of Camp Lemonnier safe,” DeGilio said. “I want to personally thank him for his service and wish him fair winds and following seas.”
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air commandos wrecking cars and saving lives

Jaws of life. Hooligan tools. Chainsaws. Hammers.

Awkward names for things that could save lives on the battlefield as well as on the streets of America. But these and other tools can be found in the search and rescue and personnel recovery arsenal of the elite Air Commandos.


Earlier in October, Pararescuemen and Combat Control operators from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron refreshed their extrication skills, showcasing along the way the importance of a little known but important skillset.

Utilizing old vehicles, the Air Commandos simulated the extrication of troops or civilians from wrecked vehicles with a variety of methods tools. However, it’s important to remember that the Air Commandos will often have to carry the tools on them, so the equipment must be effective yet portable.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

An operator from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron uses a chainsaw during extrication training at Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Oct. 8, 2020, to simulate removing trapped personnel from a vehicle or aircraft. The members may use these techniques in combat environments or humanitarian assistance and disaster response zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye)

“By using non-salvageable vehicles, we are able to develop a scenario in which all procedures and tools are utilized, enhancing proficiency in this specific Tactic, Technique, and Procedure,” said the 125th Special Tactics Squadron flight commander in a press release. “The non-salvageable vehicles provide the most realistic training possible.”

The advent of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has made extrication capabilities that much more important. If a vehicle, regardless if it’s armored or not, triggers an IED, chances are that it will suffer significant, if not catastrophic, damage. But if the explosive charge in the IED isn’t sufficient to destroy the vehicle altogether, the crew might survive, probably trapped inside the wreck. That’s why the extrication capability becomes important. But the skillset is also important in domestic or humanitarian scenarios, especially considering that this particular unit is part of the National Guard and might be called on to help civilians in distress as it has been doing in the past months.

“We also use this equipment during state emergency response operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations to establish landing zones,” added the officer. “Or in the case of hurricanes, we’d possibly cut holes in the tops of houses to evacuate personnel by helicopter. These procedures were also utilized by Special Tactics Pararescuemen during the earthquake response in Haiti in 2010.”
This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Break it down, boys (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye).

Part of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron is based in Portland.

Pararescue is the only career field in the whole Department of Defense (DoD) that is specially trained and equipped to conduct combat search and rescue and personnel recovery.

Back in 1993 and the Battle of Mogadishu, the Air Commandos’ extrication training proved crucial. When the first MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during the “Black Hawk Down” incident, several of the crew members were trapped inside the twisted metals of the battered machine.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

The moment the two pilots are finally extricated in the very realistic movie Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures).

Even though the two Night Stalkers pilots who had been killed, the rest of Task Force Dagger resolved to not leave them behind. But only specialized equipped and trained men could extricate them. So, the burden fell on the Pararescuemen of the elite 24th Special Tactics Squadron. In the end, and after another day and night of fighting, the rescue force managed to extricate the two pilots.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


popular

This ‘Einstein Box’ helps F-22s secretly communicate with unstealthy planes

America’s troops have very awesome tactical gear, even through all the teething problems that systems like the F-35 Lightning II have had.


That said, all that gear can’t win a war unless you can come up with a good plan.

During a walk-through demonstration given by Lockheed Martin at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held at National Harbor, Maryland, the company explained how the technology and capabilities of mission planning are set to take a huge step forward.

But what’s it like now?

The present state of integrating the air, land, maritime, space, and cyber components in the military was described as a series of stovepipes by Kim Ponders of Lockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works.

Hiccups with this integration sometimes means that different components go after the same target.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history
Lockheed concept art of multi-domain command and control (MD2C). (Graphic from Lockheed)

In essence, a JDAM dropped from a F-35 could very well hit an SA-20 command vehicle that was already fried by a cyber attack, and the site then gets hits by Tomahawk cruise missiles, even though the missiles are useless without a command vehicle.

While there are times that overkill can help, there are circumstances — like a target-rich environment or when you are short of munitions — where overkill can be a problem.

Skunk Works seeks to change that by using open-systems architecture to create a multi-domain command and control system. One key component called the Einstein Box was tested during Northern Edge earlier this year.

In essence, this helps network 4th-generation fighters with the 5th-generation fighters without compromising the stealth of the F-22s and F-35s. During that exercise, the Einstein Box was placed on one of the early successes of the Skunk Works, the U-2 Dragon Lady.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

This merging of systems ranging from the F-22 Raptor to destroyers and cruisers equipped with Aegis to the control system for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile to the Space-Based Infrared System will eventually make it a lot harder to the bad guys, largely because American (and allied) troops will be able to pass information to each other much faster than before.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history
From this angle, you can see some of the displays used for planning in the cyber, space, and air domains. (Photo from Lockheed)

By being able to pass the information faster, American troops will be able to rapidly pair platforms with targets. This will help them make the most of their assets on the scene. Lockheed even has teamed up with Raytheon and SRC to design a new JSTARS that could carry out MDC2.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history
A look at some of the consoles in a mockup of Lockheed’s proposed replacement for the E-8 JSTARS. (Lockheed photo)

This means that in the future, the pilot of a F-35 could detect a radar emission, and other assets (either special operation forces on the ground or a satellite) could very quickly tell that pilot whether the emitter is real or a decoy, how far it is from the van, and the pilot can then address the threat, or be told that another asset will handle it. Rapidly getting that information to everyone will eventually help save the lives of American troops, and that’s a very good thing.

Lockheed has a video on the MDC2 concept below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Secretary of State visits Baghdad to warn of ‘imminent’ Iranian threat

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi officials to discuss the United States’ security concerns amid what he called “escalating” Iranian activity.

Pompeo’s May 7, 2019, visit to the Iraqi capital came after the United States earlier this week announced the deployment an aircraft carrier battle group to the Middle East, which U.S. official said was in response to threats to American forces and the country’s allies from Iran.

The U.S. intelligence was “very specific” about “attacks that were imminent,” Pompeo said in Baghdad, without providing details.


Tehran has dismissed the reported threat as “psychological warfare.”

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since President Donald Trump one year ago withdrew the United States from the 2015 between Iran and world powers and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.

After meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad, Pompeo told reporters: “We talked to them about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country.”

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 9, 2019.

(State Department Photo)

He said the purpose of the meetings also was to inform Iraqi leaders about “the increased threat stream that we had seen” so they could effectively provide protection to U.S. forces.

Pompeo said he had assured Iraqi officials that the United States stands ready to “continue to ensure that Iraq is a sovereign, independent nation.”

“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq,” he said.

Asked about the decision to deploy additional forces to the Middle East, Pompeo said: “The message that we’ve sent to the Iranians, I hope, puts us in a position where we can deter and the Iranians will think twice about attacking American interests.”

After his four-hour visit, Pompeo tweeted that his meetings in Baghdad were used “to reinforce our friendship to underline the need for Iraq to protect diplomatic facilities Coalition personnel.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said the sides discussed “bilateral ties, the latest security developments in the region, and anti-terrorism efforts.”

U.S. forces are deployed in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the extremist group Islamic State.

Ahead of the visit, Pompeo said he would also discuss with the Iraqis pending business accords, including “big energy deals that can disconnect them from Iranian energy.”

Earlier, the U.S. secretary of state had attended a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland and abruptly canceled a planned visit to Germany due to what a spokesperson said were “pressing issues.”

White House national-security adviser John Bolton on May 5, 2019, said that the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and accompanying ships, along with a bomber task force, to waters near Iran was intended to send “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

The United States was acting “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” Bolton said.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)

The Pentagon said on May 7, 2019, that the U.S. bomber task force being sent would consist of long-range, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.

Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the USS Abraham Lincoln was already due in the Persian Gulf and dismissed the U.S. announcement as a “clumsy” attempt to recycle old news for “psychological warfare.”

“From announcements of naval movements (that actually occurred last month) to dire warnings about so-called ‘Iranian threats’,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “If US and clients don’t feel safe, it’s because they’re despised by the people of the region — blaming Iran won’t reverse that.”

The latest escalation between Washington and Tehran comes ahead of the May 8 anniversary of the U.S. pullout from the nuclear agreement with Iran that provided the country with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New Army recruits will get more range time and more ammo

U.S. Army training officials have finalized a plan to ensure new recruits in Basic Combat Training receive more trigger time on their individual weapons.

In the past, new soldiers would learn to shoot their 5.56mm M4 carbines and qualify with the Army’s red-dot close combat optic. Under the new marksmanship training effort, soldiers will qualify on both the backup iron sight and the CCO, as well as firing more rounds in realistic combat scenarios.


“We just want to make sure at the end of the day, they can still pull that weapon out and engage the enemy effectively,” Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr., commander of Leader Training Brigade at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, told Military.com.

Guadalupe’s brigade, which falls under the Center for Initial Military Training, is responsible for the new training program of instruction for Basic Combat Training that the Army announced early 2018.

The new BCT is designed to instill more discipline and esprit de corps in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army noted trends among soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience, poor work ethic and low discipline.

The restructured training program will place increased emphasis on marksmanship training and other combat skills.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley tasked Fort Jackson to lead the effort to toughen standards so soldiers will be more prepared for combat upon completion of BCT, Guadalupe said.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history
(U.S. Army photo)

“He wanted us to create the absolute best soldier that we can create coming out of Basic Combat Training prior to their advanced individual training,” he said.

Fort Jackson has been tasked to develop “best practices as we slowly implement the new program of instruction,” Guadalupe said.

The goal is to have initial operating capability by July 15, 2018, and to have the new BCT fully operational at Jackson and the other three BCT centers at Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, by Oct. 1, 2018, he said.

The redesigned BCT marksmanship program includes more instruction time and requires trainees to spend more time on the range.

In the past, new soldiers in BCT shot 500 rounds and received 83 hours of marksmanship instruction over a 16-day period. The redesigned standards have soldiers shooting 600 rounds and receiving 92 hours of training.

Much of that time will be devoted to shooting and qualifying with front and rear backup iron sights to ensure soldiers become more familiar and more disciplined with their weapons, Guadalupe said.

Trainees start out working in marksmanship simulators, “but the real difference is made when they feel the percussion of that weapon and the effect that it has once actually shooting bullets down range,” he said.

For nearly two decades, soldiers have relied upon sophisticated weapons optics such as the M68 CCO as the primary sight in combat.

But Army senior leaders, for many months now, have been stressing the importance of making sure soldiers can operate in technology-degraded environments since potential enemies such as Russia and China are investing in electronic warfare.

In addition to giving recruits more range time, this new reality is driving the return to learning to shoot with basic iron sights designed to work in any condition.

“While technology is critically important to us, we’ve got to make sure they understand the minimum basics of how you shoot that weapon without any of the technology that you could put on it,” Guadalupe said.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history
(U.S. Army photo)

Basic trainees will have to qualify with both iron sights and the CCO as a graduation requirement. For the qualification course, soldiers are still given 40 rounds to engage 40 targets.

But on CCO qualification day, soldiers will run through the course twice to give them more time to become effective with the optic.

“We did that so they would have more range time, more bullets for that CCO,” said Wayne Marken, quality assurance officer at Jackson.

“They spend the predominance of training time on the backup iron sight, and because they complete backup iron sight and then transition to CCO, we have built in extra time for them to get more range time,” he said.

The best qualification score soldiers receive during the CCO record firing day will determine which marksmanship badge they wear — marksman, sharpshooter or expert.

“Let’s say you go out and shoot 37 rounds and you are an expert the first time you qualify,” Guadalupe said. “We are still going to let you go back to the range and shoot again.”

The new emphasis on marksmanship is also designed to expose young soldiers to more realistic shooting scenarios.

At the end of the final field training exercise known as The Forge, soldiers are required to do a battle march and shoot event.

Soldiers march four miles with 40-pound rucksacks and then go immediately into a close-combat firing range, do 25 pushups and engage 40 targets at ranges out to 100 meters with 40 rounds of ammunition.

“This is at the end of The Forge, so the soldiers over a four-day period … have marched over 40 miles already,” said Thriso Hamilton, training specialist for the Basic Combat Training POI.

“The soldiers are extremely tired, they are hungry, they’re under a stressful situation and we want to see at that point how much focus they can garner to be able to … engage targets,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why it was a bad idea for Army officers to complain to President Teddy Roosevelt

Without a doubt, the most athletic President had to be Theodore Roosevelt. An avid boxer, wrestler, runner, and lover of all things outdoors, America’s 26th President never seemed to reach his peak performance. One might think his subordinates in the United States Army would have realized this before they complained to the Commander-In-Chief. Lesson learned.

And that lesson is Teddy Roosevelt will embarrass you.


Roosevelt remains – to this day – the pinnacle of red-blooded American manliness. This gravel-chewing stone-cold badass never met a challenge he wasn’t willing to put in a headlock and pummel with the sheer force of his iron will. He wasn’t just comfortable with a sustained level of violence in his daily life, this man thrived on it. And he expected no less from those who served him, especially in the United States military. This is the man who volunteered to serve, raised his own regiment, and then earned the Medal of Honor on his first deployment.

There was pretty much nothing TR couldn’t do. So why on earth would anyone in the U.S. military complain to the athlete-in-chief about how hard their life is? One cavalry officer discovered this bad idea personally.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history
Don’t forget, Roosevelt rode for the Army before he was President, so he knew a thing or two about it. Wikimedia Commons

It seems the officer complained to the President about having to ride 100 miles in three days. President Roosevelt, who instituted mandatory physical training for the United States Armed Forces during his Presidency scoffed at the idea. Soldiers and sailors were, for the first time, required to maintain a baseline level of fitness. Still, the Army officer objected to the level of riding he and his men were forced to endure. In response, the then 51-year-old President saw the complaint as a challenge.

He sought to show the Army that not only was it possible to do in three days, but that three days was more than enough time – and he was going to do it personally. If a 51-year-old man who wasn’t training every day could do it, then surely the U.S. Army who is training could do it.

Not only did Roosevelt ride that 100 miles as President, he did it in a single day. The President rode along with his military aide Archie Butt and his physician to the Virginia town of Warrenton. There, Roosevelt gave a speech at the Warren Green Hotel and shook hands with everyone who came out to listen. He had a quick lunch before he and his riding companions headed back to Washington, where they finished their ride in a snowstorm.

And that’s why you don’t complain to Teddy Roosevelt.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This charity paid the mortgage for a fallen Coastie’s family

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation may not be as recognizable as the Wounded Warrior Project or have a famous person attached to them, but the effect it can have on a family is just as powerful – and just as immediate. Just ask the family of recently deceased Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski, who no longer have to worry about their house payment every month.


This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Michael Kozloski and his family.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is named for Stephen Siller, a New York City Firefighter who was killed at Ground Zero during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. To honor Siller and his sacrifice, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation uses its 5 million endowment to pay off the mortgages of families related to military personnel and first responders who are killed in the line of duty. Sadly, that’s how Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski died.

Kozloski was killed in a crane accident in Homer, Alaska, in early 2019. The Upstate New York native joined the Coast Guard at age 18 and was 35 when he was killed. His wife and four children would be forever without his love and guidance, unsure of how they would be able to stay in their Port St. Lucie, Fla. home. That’s where the Tunnel to Towers Foundation stepped in.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Stephen Siller, an FDNY firefighter killed on 9/11, who’s memory is changing lives nationwide.

“I was left wondering how I was going to provide for our four kids and give them the life they deserve,” Brienne Kozloski, Michael’s wife, said in a statement. “The outpouring of support we received from the Coast Guard, family, friends, and many organizations that help Gold Star families was amazing. When I heard from Frank Siller that Tunnel to Towers was going to pay the mortgage on our new home, I was overwhelmed… I will forever be grateful for this.”

Kozloski’s home is the 15th home the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has purchased this season alone. From Massachusetts to Iowa and beyond the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation has an incredible record of supporting military, veteran, and first responder families when a loved one is killed in the line of duty. Even victims of the Parkland, Fla. School Shootings were recognized by the foundation – teachers killed while protecting their students. Chief Warrant Officer Kozloski is one more in a line of brave, hardworking public servants who lost it all while doing their every day jobs.

To learn more about the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, see who the foundation has helped with its Fallen First Responders Home Program, or to donate, visit the Tunnels to Towers website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Satellite photos: North Korea is rebuilding nuclear launch facility

Satellite images taken just after the collapse of February 2019’s summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un show North Korea rebuilding a long-range-missile test site it pledged to dismantle, experts say.

The photographs are from March 2, 2019, two days after Trump’s meeting with Kim ended without agreement on the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

They show North Korea rebuilding its long-range-rocket site at Sohae, according to analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Previously, the Tongchang-ri facility had been used for satellite launches using missile technology North Korea is banned from using by the UN, the analysts said.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)

A South Korean lawmaker who was present at a closed-door briefing by South Korean intelligence March 5, 2019, told the Associated Press that the structures being restored at the site included roofs and building doors.

The lawmaker said the National Intelligence Service director, Suh Hoon, told them that North Korea could be preparing to restart tests of long-range missiles if talks with Washington conclusively collapsed.

He suggested that another possibility was that the site could be dramatically blown up in a display of commitment to denuclearization if talks with the US resulted in a deal.

North Korea had begun to dismantle the facility following an agreement reached at June 2018’s Singapore summit between Trump and Kim, and it had been dormant since August 2018, experts say.

According to the monitoring website 38 North, efforts to rebuild structures at the site began between Feb. 16 and March 2, 2019. Trump’s summit with Kim began Feb. 27, 2019.

Its experts say the images show the rail-mounted processing building, where launch vehicles are worked on before being moved to the launch pad, are being rebuilt.

They also identified support cranes, new roofs, and an engine support structure being developed at the test stand.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Researchers of Beyond Parallel, a CSIS project, describe this image of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station launch pad as showing the partially rebuilt rail-mounted rocket transfer structure in a commercial satellite image taken over Tongchang-ri, North Korea.

(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)

In a Fox News interview March 5, 2019, the White House national security adviser, John Bolton, warned that new sanctions could be imposed on North Korea if the country did not further commit to denuclearization.

“If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear,” he said.

“They’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them, and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact.”

Sanctions on North Korea are already restrictive, but experts at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation believe there is room for tougher measures to be imposed on Chinese financial entities accused of aiding North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

The Council on Foreign Relations has argued that the existing sanctions regime requires better enforcement if it is to be effective.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea just fired its missiles into the sea

The South Korean military is reporting that North Korea launched several weapons into the sea, perhaps a sign that North Korea’s patience with Washington is growing thin.

North Korea launched a barrage of unidentified short-range projectiles early May 4, 2019, local time, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a press release, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency. The weapons, which were initially identified as missiles, reportedly flew out to ranges of roughly 70 to 200 kilometers (43 to 124 miles).

At this time, it is unclear what North Korea has launched. The mysterious projectiles were fired from the east coast town of Wonsan.


North Korea’s last missile test was conducted in November 2017, when the country launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile — the Hwasong-15.

As an apparent good-faith gesture to facilitate bilateral dialogue, Pyongyang proposed a self-imposed long-range missile and nuclear testing moratorium while in talks with the US. Round after round of failed negotiations, which included two leadership summits attended by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, have left both sides feeling frustrated.

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The Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

In November 2018, after an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon,” apparently an artillery piece.

In April 2019, North Korea tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” reportedly components for a new anti-tank weapon.

A missile launch, while potentially intended to signal a desire for movement on bilateral issues, would not only undermine the president’s claims of progress with North Korea, but it would also risk bringing Pyongyang and Washington back to the exchanges of heated rhetoric and shows of force that had many wondering if nuclear war was just over the horizon in 2017.

The latest weapons launch comes on the heels of a meeting between Kim and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the specific details of which remain murky.

Trump was reportedly “fully briefed” on North Korea’s actions by White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has been decidedly pessimistic in his view of negotiations with Pyongyang. Bolton has, in the past, argued in favor of using military force.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US will pay countries not to buy arms from Russia

It was a program designed by the State Department to help the former Warsaw Pact countries break away from dependence on the Russian economy – the United States would straight up pay the newly liberated former Soviet Union allies to buy American-made weapons instead of buying them from their former patron.


That program is back, and the United States is expanding it.

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A Russian-built Hind helicopter in the Macedonian Air Force

It’s called the European Recapitalization Incentive Program and Eastern Europe is signing on for arms made in the good ol’ US of A. But the U.S. isn’t stopping at limiting Russian influence through arms sales, the American government is using the program to limit arms sales from China too. It’s a function of the State Department working hand-in-hand with the Pentagon in an effort to project American economic power and military goodwill.

“The goal is to help our partners break away from the Russian supply chain [and] logistics chain that allows Russian contractors and service personnel, and Russian-manufactured spare parts onto either NATO allied bases or partner military bases,” a State Department official told Defense One.

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A Russian-built T-72 tank in the Slovakian Army.

The countries signing on to the revitalized program can’t just promise not to buy Russian or Chinese weapons from now on. They will also need to get rid of their old ones as well as purchase new American replacements. So instead of gifting these countries a hodgepodge of military arms or vehicles, the countries can invest in American military power while getting rid of old systems and updating their military capabilities. Some of the partner countries are still using Soviet-built weapons.

In the past year, the U.S. State Department has signed on six former Soviet Bloc countries to the program to the tune of 0 million, including Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, North Macedonia, and Slovakia. The program will even bring these countries up to NATO standards in many areas. If successful, the U.S. will expand the program beyond Eastern Europe to help other countries break free of Chinese and Russian dependence.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Ready Player One’ has the most epic climactic battle scene

A huge battle featuring the Battletoads, Ninja Turtles, Ultraman, Mechagodzilla, a team of Spartans from Halo, and about a thousand other beloved pop-culture and childhood icons is something we sadly had to leave behind once all our action figures were cleaned up and mom called us down to dinner.


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Kinda like that — but not at all.

Well, not anymore.

Hundreds of pop culture references from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and recent years are featured heavily in Steven Speilberg’s new film, Ready Player One. It’s a film the director says was three years in the making and required the coordination of hundreds of artists and creatives the world over — including author Ernest Cline. Cline’s 2011 sci-fi novel of the same name was also filled with these great easter eggs.

The film is about the quest for such an “easter egg,” which, for the unfamiliar, is an inside joke, hidden message, or secret feature created by the designer of a work. Watching or reading Ready Player One is a lot like trying to get to the center of the world’s largest Matryoshka nesting doll of easter eggs.

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On Easter.

Set in a poor area of Columbus, Ohio in the year 2045, film centers around Wade Watts, a young gamer inside the Oasis, an open, massively multiplayer, online world – essentially, it’s a video game that has supplanted the real world in popularity. The Oasis is populated primarily by other gamers and almost everyone has a customized avatar. Wade’s avatar is called “Parzival” and, in the Oasis, he’s on the quest for the greatest easter egg in history.

The Oasis’ late creator, James Halliday, left a series of clues to help people find hidden keys. Once all three keys are collected, the winner can claim the easter egg – Halliday’s fortune and ownership of the Oasis. Watts, in his quest, stumbles upon another gunter (or “egg hunter”), Samantha (also known as Art3mis) and three gamers he knows only through the Oasis: Aech (pronounced “H“), a samurai called Daito, and a ninja called Sho.

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An earlier concept of the Battle of Castle Anorak.

Together, as they unlock the secrets to finding the keys, they have to contend with billionaire businessman Nolan Sorrento, CEO of Innovative Online Industries. IOI’s corporate villain has seemingly unlimited resources, unlimited lives, and a vast army of digital slaves helping him wrest ownership of and monetize the Oasis, an idea anathema to the god-like Halliday’s vision.

By the time we get to the Battle of Castle Anorak (Anorak being the name of the late Halliday’s avatar), Parzival has rallied the entire Oasis – the entire world – to fight to keep their digital world pure. Rolling in the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, wielding crowd-pleasing weaponry, like Monty Python’s holy hand grenade, and fighting alongside horror movie legend, Chucky, Parzival and friends take on IOI’s respawning army of employees.

I know, it seems like a lot — even if you’ve already read the book. But look: If you’re a fan of the pop culture of the 1980s, this is the movie for you (listen up, Gen-Xers). The film loves the 1980s as much as you do. More than that, Ready Player One is a throwback to the popcorn-peddling, fun, thrill-ride of movies from the 80s.

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IOI’s army of faceless game drones. (Amblin Entertainment)

Even if you don’t love video games or cheeky 80s references, there’s still something for everyone to love in Ready Player One. This is a movie for your inner pop-culture fan.

 Just make sure you’ve seen The Shining before you go.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Same-sex couples aren’t unicorns

Mallory and Stacy “Lux” Krauss are deeply proud of how far things have come since the riots of Stonewall, but they also know this country still has a lot more work to do.

“When I joined the Coast Guard, it was right after they repealed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. Honest to God, I went to the recruiter that very next day,” Lux shared.

She explained that prior to the repeal, she had wanted to join, but said she couldn’t be a part of something that wasn’t inclusive and accepting of all people.


When the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repeal was being discussed within congress, the Coast Guard and the Navy were the only two branches of service that didn’t initially oppose it.

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(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Mallory and Lux met at the 2013 pride parade in San Francisco, while they were both in California attending “A” schools for the United States Coast Guard. It was the first year that the military was allowing participation in pride events and both had been asked to walk in the parade.

“The pride parade is important because it’s a remembrance of Stonewall, but it’s also to say, ‘Hey, we are here and this is who we are’,” Lux shared.

Following that parade, they began dating. They returned to that same parade a year later. It was there that Mallory proposed to Lux. They married not long after that and eventually Mallory decided to leave the Coast Guard. They now have two sons, born in 2016 and 2020. Both boys were carried by Lux and Mallory is also listed on both of their birth certificates as their mother, something that only became legal shortly before their first son was born.

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Although things are moving forward, a lingering fear is always present for both of them.

“It still makes me nervous to go to any new command and share that I have a wife and children. You never know, you could have that one person who may be of the extreme who has the ability to ruin your career because you are gay,” said Lux.

She explained that even now when the Coast Guard puts something official out about pride or inclusivity on their social media, the comments can turn hateful fast and many of those commenting negatively are in the Coast Guard themselves.

That feeling of nervousness is ever present in everything they do and it’s something that many in the LGBTQ community are deeply familiar with. Despite multiple laws being passed to assure equality, there are still those in this country who are adamantly opposed to acknowledging and accepting them.

Once while standing in line at a candy story in Tennessee, a man behind them asked if they were gay. Although this was the first time they’d ever been rudely asked that question, they were very familiar with stares of others. Everywhere they go, especially in the southern states, they wonder if they’ll be accepted.

Now, they have to worry for their children too.

While getting one of their boys registered for a recent medical procedure, Mallory was filling out the paperwork when she was asked who the mom was. She explained that both she and Lux were his moms. The response was one they had always dreaded hearing, ‘but who is the real mom?’ This is a question that most straight couples will never have to face hearing.

Most will also never have to worry about legal custody being questioned either.

“There’s a grey area, if something were to happen to Lux and her parents wanted to take our children, they might legally be able to,” said Mallory.

She explained that although she is on their birth certificates, because she isn’t biologically related to them that risk is present unless she legally adopts them or specific laws are passed to protect them. Although Mallory said she knows her in-laws would never do that, it’s still something that no parent should ever have to think about.

Every time they move on Coast Guard orders, they wonder how the new doctor or school will react to their family. They both shared that so far, their experiences have been positive but they look forward to the day they don’t have to think about it. Although this country has come a long way since Stonewall, more work still has to be done. When asked what pride month means to them and what they want other military families to know, it was easy for them to respond.

They don’t want to be treated like unicorns.

“People need to realize, we are not any different from any other family,” said Mallory with a laugh. “We have our kids and we are worried about their future, there’s nothing special about us. We just want to be like everyone else,” Lux shared.

To learn more about the history of oppression and violence those in the LGBTQ community experienced and the inequality they still face today, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


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