Well into the attack, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.
Due to the events of that traumatic day, 1,177 Sailors and Marines lost their lives, but the numbers of those men buried at the historic site continue to increase.
Master Chief Raymond Haerry (ret), served as a Boatswain’s Mate on the Arizona as it was bombed by enemy forces in the pacific fleet, which threw him from the ship and caused him to land in the oil and fire covered water.
Haerry had to swim his way to Ford Island — then got right back into the fight by firing back at the enemy. He was just 19 years old.
75 years after the attack, Haerry returned; his ashes were laid to rest inside the sunken ship’s hull, rejoining approximately 900 of his brothers. More than 100 people gathered at the USS Arizona Memorial for the symbolic funeral in his honor — a ceremony only offered to those who survived the deadly attack.
The retired Master Chief became the 42nd survivor to be placed at the site out of the 335 men who survived.
Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr., was on an assault team conducting the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph. After a four-hour foot patrol to the target location, a group of special operations volunteers hit the suspected building.
Byers distinguished himself multiple times in the moments that followed, sprinting to the building after a guard spotted the team 25 yards out, fighting against multiple enemies while trying to fix a problem with his night vision and find the doctor, and protecting the doctor with his own body while engaging multiple hostile targets.
He was later honored with a well-earned Medal of Honor for his actions.
In this video from the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Byers talks about a seldom explored part of becoming a Medal of Honor recipient, the actual process of learning you will receive the award. From scheduling and receiving the president’s phone call to being inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.
A 48-year-old U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane reached a milestone — 30,000 hours of flight time — while flying a mission to gather intelligence on ISIS, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.
A release from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing said that a U-2 flown by a pilot identified only as “Maj. Ryan” hit the 30,000-hour mark while “collecting critical, real-time information to give commanders the decisional advantage” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance plane flew out of a base in Southwest Asia, the report said.
The Lockheed U-2 is only the second of the unique aircraft to reach the 30,000-hour mark. In 2016, a U-2 with the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base in South Korea completed 30,000 flight hours as the first-ever in the U.S. fleet.
“It takes a lot of people to launch and recover a jet and to keep this going,” said Ryan, of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. “Today, we hit 30,000 hours. I hope it gets 30,000 more.”
An assistant maintenance operations officer identified as Capt. Lacey said, “The mere fact alone that we’re able to continue flying this aircraft to this day is an achievement in itself, let alone fly 30,000 hours on one aircraft.”
A maintenance superintendent was quoted as saying, “The accomplishment of the U-2 flying 30,000 hours is extraordinary because the airframe itself is 48 years old, and it is flying with the most technologically advanced ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance] systems available today.”
With a thin fuselage and 80-foot wings, the U-2 was developed during the Cold War for photo reconnaissance against the Soviet Union. The aircraft were first flown by decommissioned Air Force pilots for the CIA but later became Air Force assets.
The service has plans in the works eventually to replace the U-2s with unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawks but, in the meantime, the aircraft remain a vital intelligence tool.
For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.
Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.
As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.
They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.
Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.
Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.
Each year thousands of men and women enter the military with different expectations. Some end up making their military service a career, while others call it a day after completing their first contract.
Whatever you decide, here’s a few tips on making those first enlisted years as manageable as possible.
1. Learn To Negotiate
It’s well known that the E-4 and below run the show. Since you probably fall into this demographic, you get told what to do more than you get to tell others.
Find out a few job perks your MOS or rate has that others may value and consider trading goods or services for it.
For instance: There’s a company-wide hike approaching, and you don’t feel like taking part. Get to know the staff at your local medical clinic and strike up a deal to get you out in exchange for something you have or can do for them later.
2. Out Of Sight — Out Of Mind
Staying under the radar can take the time to plan and practice to master. Knowing every nook and cranny in your general area can be useful when the boss enters with a job in mind and you need a place to hide.
3. Request Special Liberty
Here’s a sneaky little strategy that many might overlook.
Service members in good standing can get approved for free days off that won’t count against their accumulated leave days. Commands don’t advertise this option as much to their personnel when they submit single-day leave requests, but you can still ask for one.
The key to getting this option approved is to find a low-Karmic risk reason why you “need” a particular day off.
Note: You don’t want the false reason you use to ever come true. Choose wisely.
4. Volunteer for day time events
Morale, Wellness, and Recreation, or “MWR” is a non-profit organization that sponsors various entertainment events that are intended to boost the morale of all active duty members. The MWR members are primarily made up of volunteers themselves and are constantly looking for help.
The majority of MWR events are held during the afternoon. So you may have to cut out of work early to attend — and who wants to do that, right?
5. Put on a serious face
Most people tend to avoid conversation with another person who appears to be in deep thought or a bad mood. So use this look to your advantage when you just don’t feel like listening to people.
Consider using a prop like a clipboard to strengthen the effect.
6. Have a lookout
Skating isn’t always a solo effort — it can sometimes take a whole team to pull off correctly.
Your seniors were at some point a part of the E-4 Mafia where they learned the art of skating. Depending on your location, you may not have the proper viewing to spot when your first sergeant or chief comes barreling around the corner discovering you and your comrades playing grab ass.
Consider putting a lookout in a designed spot to warn everyone of the inbound coffee mug holding boss breaches the area. Also take turns on the lookout position. No one wants to only hear the fun.
7. Roll Call
Another one that calls for some backup.
The military’s made up of a lot of moving parts. People come and go handling various tasks throughout the day.
As long as you’re accounted for during roll call, you’ve pretty much got the upper hand on skating through whatever job lies ahead.
When a roll call starts, someone holding a clipboard, probably sporting a serious face like we talked about earlier will sound off a list of names from a sheet of paper. Once they hear the word “here!” shouted back to them they assume that’s the person they just called out for even if they haven’t lifted their eyes from the paper.
This works if the person calling out the names can’t put faces to those names or is in on the “skating.”
Have your buddies’ back if they are off skating somewhere, just make sure when you do it, they repay the favor.
8. Get your driver’s license
Driving a military vehicle on base requires the operator to have a special license. Getting the qualification can take some practice and concentration, but once you familiarize yourself with the multi-ton vehicle, you become an asset to the higher ups now that you can drive them around.
As the third-highest award for bravery in combat awarded to service members in the military, the Silver Star honors those who display exceptional courage while engaged in military combat operations against enemy forces.
When you see a Silver Star distinction on a license plate or on a uniform, you might wonder what the service member did to earn the distinction. Here’s everything you need to know about the Silver Star Medal but didn’t want to ask.
The Silver Star Requirements
The SSM is awarded for bravery, as long as the action doesn’t justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards (the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross or the Coast Guard Cross).
The act of bravery has to have taken place while in combat action against an enemy of the United States while involved in military operations that involve conflict with an opposing foreign force. It can also occur while serving with a friendly force engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
This medal is awarded for singular acts of heroism over a brief period, such as one to two days.
Air Force pilots, combat systems officers and Navy/Marine naval aviators/flight officers are often ineligible to receive the Silver Star after becoming an ace (having five or more confirmed aerial kills). However, the last conflict to produce aces was the Vietnam War, and during that conflict, several Silver Stars were awarded to aces.
Finely constructed details
The Silver Star Medal is a gold five-pointed star, 1 ½ inch in diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays forming the center. A smaller, 3/16 inch silver star is superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners.
On the backside, the reserve has the inscription, “For Gallantry in Action.” The ribbon measures 1 3/8 inches wide and has a 5.6mm wide Old Glory Red stripe in the center, proceeding outward pairs of white and ultramarine blue.
Second and subsequent Silver Star awards are denoted by bronze or silver oak leaf clusters in the Air Force and Army, and gold and silver stars for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.
Recipients of Silver Star Medals
To date, independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established. The Department of Defense doesn’t keep records for how many are issued.
The first Silver Star was awarded to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1932, who was then awarded Silver Stars seven additional times for his actions in WWI.
Col. Davis Hackworth was awarded 10 Silver Star medals for his actions in both Korea and Vietnam. It’s thought that he has the highest number of medals issued to one single person.
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Senator John Kerry, Army Gen. George Marshall and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North all received Silver Stars.
In WWI, three Army nurses were cited with the Citation Star for their bravery in attending to wounded service personnel while under artillery fire in July 1918. However, in 2007, it was discovered that the nurses never received their awards. These three nurses were Jane Rignel, for her bravery in giving aid to the wounded while under fire, and Irene Robar and Linnie Leckrone, for their courage to attend to the wounded while under artillery bombardments.
The first woman to receive both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart was also an Army nurse – Lt. Col. Cordelia Cook. She served in WWII and later went on to have a career as a civilian nurse.
In 2005, Army National Guard Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester received the Silver Star for her gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. In 2008, Army Spec. Monica Lin Brown received the Silver Star for her extraordinary heroism as a medic in the War in Afghanistan.
Since September 11, 2001, the Silver Star has been awarded to service members during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As the U.S. starts to forward-deploy more of its F-35 Lightning, China and Russia have been putting the finishing touches on their own batches of fifth-generation aircraft — and they all express vastly different ideas about what the future of air combat will look like.
For the U.S., stealth and sophisticated networks define its vision for the future of air combat with the F-22 and F-35.
For China, the plan is to use range to take out high-value targets with the J-20.
For Russia, the PAK-FA shows that it seems to think dogfighting isn’t dead.
Here’s how the F-35 stacks up to the competition.
The F-35 Lightning II
An F-35B begins its short takeoff from the USS America with an external weapons load. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The U.S.’s F-35 isn’t an airplane — it’s three airplanes.
And it isn’t a fighter — it’s “flying sensor-shooters that have the ability to act as information nodes in a combat cloud universe made up of platforms, not just airborne, but also operating at sea and on land that can be networked together,” retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Defense Aerospace Report in November.
In a discussion with four F-35 pilots that was also produced by Defense Aerospace Report, a clear consensus emerged: The difference between an F-35 and an F-15 is like the difference between an iPhone and a corded wall phone. Phones of the past might have had crystal-clear call quality and the ability to conference call, but the iPhone brought with it unprecedented networking and computing capability that has changed life as we know it.
That said, the F-35 doesn’t offer any significant upgrades in range, weapons payload, or dogfighting ability over legacy aircraft, while its competition does.
The Chengdu J-20
China’s Chengdu J-20 has one thing in common with the F-35 — it’s not a fighter.
Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the J-20 is “not a fighter, but an interceptor and a strike aircraft” that doesn’t seek to contend with U.S. jets in air-to-air battles.
Instead, “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS” — airborne early-warning and control systems — “and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” Davis said. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
On the J-20’s stealth, a senior U.S. low-observable-aircraft design engineer working in the industry told Business Insider that “the J-20 has many features copied from U.S. fifth-gen aircraft; however, it’s apparent from looking at many pictures of the aircraft that the designers don’t fully understand all the concepts of LO” — low-observable, or stealth — “design.”
The real danger of China’s J-20 lies not with its ability to fight against U.S. fighters, but with its laserlike focus on destroying the slower, unarmed planes that support U.S. fighters with its long range and long-range missiles, thereby keeping them out of fighting range.
Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
China’s J-31 looks a lot like the F-35, and one Chinese national has pleaded guilty to stealing confidential information about the F-35 program.
That said, the J-31 suffers from China’s inferior composite-materials technology and its inability to build planes in the precise way a stealth airplane needs to be built. Additionally, there’s reason to suspect the avionics in the Chinese programs significantly lag the F-35.
But the J-31, like the J-20, still poses a significant threat because China has developed long-range missiles, which combined with their ground-based radars and radar sites in the South China Sea could potentially pick off U.S. stealth aircraft before the F-35s and F-22s could fire back.
Davis told Business Insider that the J-31 doesn’t just seek to compete with the U.S. militarily, but that the J-31 “very clearly is an F-35 competitor in a commercial sense.” Nations that weren’t invited to participate in the F-35 program may seek to buy China’s cheaper and somewhat comparable J-31.
A fleet of J-31s in the hands of Iran, for example, could pose a serious threat to U.S. interests abroad.
The PAK-FA/T-50. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
Russia’s PAK-FA, also known as the T-50, has been criticized as being fifth-generation “in name only,” but as Russia proves time and time again, it doesn’t need the best and most expensive technology to pose a real threat to U.S. aircraft.
The PAK-FA’s greatest failure is in the stealth arena. While the PAK-FA has some stealth from the front angle, “it’s a dirty aircraft,” said a person who helps build stealth aircraft, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the work.
But stealth represents just one aspect of air combat, and the Russians have considerable counterstealth technologies. So while the PAK-FA fails to deliver the stealth or total networking capacity of the F-35, it is a fighter — and a damn good one.
The U.S.’s F-22 has 2D thrust-vectoring nozzles at the engines and is the most agile plane the U.S. has ever built. The PAK-FA has 3D thrust-vectoring nozzles and is even more agile.
Additionally, the PAK-FA can be armed to the teeth with infrared missiles that focus on heat and ignore the U.S.’s stealth. So while the U.S.’s fifth generation hinges on controlling the battle from range and at the jump-off point, Russia’s PAK-FA seems to focus on close-up fights, which the designers of the F-35 didn’t concentrate on.
The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
China and Russia have both shown the world something new in their fifth-generation aircraft. No longer will these rising powers look to advance the capabilities they currently have — they will actively seek to enter new areas of aerial combat.
Both Russian and Chinese entries seem to focus on key weak points in the U.S.’s force structure by using specialized aircraft.
But the U.S. doesn’t specialize. The F-35 does everything well and seeks the informational high ground with massive computing power, all-aspect stealth, and the ability to network with almost every set of eyes and ears in the U.S. military.
The F-35 has limited range and ability for close combat, but unlike the Chinese and Russian fifth-gens that try to score kills on their own, the F-35 plays like a quarterback, sending targeting information to any platform available.
As the F-35 software develops, pilots will be free to take on more demanding missions, but China’s and Russia’s fifth-gens will still be confined to relatively narrow ones.
To test just how easy it is for cops to get high-tech military equipment, a government agency asked for more than $1.2 million in weapons by pretending to be a fake law enforcement agency — and got it, according to a report published last week.
The Government Accountability Office, the agency tasked with overseeing government abuse, made up a fictitious agency website and address to ask the Department of Defense for more than a million dollars in military equipment.
They received the equipment, which included night-vision goggles, M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb equipment, from a military warehouse in less than a week.
“They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, told The Marshall Project. “It was like getting stuff off of eBay.”
After receiving the weapons, the GAO recommended more tightly regulating transfer of military equipment and conducting a risk assessment test in order to prevent real-life fraud.
The DoD agreed to better monitor transfer of equipment by physically visiting the location of the agency and conducting a fraud assessment in 2018, according to the report.
But Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the Marshall Project that cases of possible fraud should not be used as a knock against the program.
“It suggests only that the US military is one of the world’s largest bureaucracies and as such is going to have some lapses in material control,” he said.
GAO’s investigation into the transfer of military equipment came after public outrage over the equipment carried by Ferguson police during protests over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, according to TMP.
The US Missile Defense Agency just issued a bold request for proposals for a missile defense system that could change the game and act like a silver bullet against North Korean missile launches.
The MDA asked for proposals to build a high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upwards towards the sky.
While the laser system sounds like something out of science fiction, and is something the US Navy has struggled to field for over a decade, Ricky Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance told Business Insider that this drone could be the perfect application of the technology.
“What it can do is intercept missiles in the boost phase, therefore you don’t need to have billion dollar radars all over the world to intercept with 80 million dollar interceptors,” said Ellison.
Ballistic missiles fly high into earth’s atmosphere before breaking apart, often releasing multiple reentry vehicles, countermeasures, and decoys. This makes them a nightmare for traditional missile defense systems which track the launch and then fire interceptor vehicles to smash them apart upon reentry.
Another possible design for the laser interceptor. Photo from missilethreat.csis.org
Even the top-of-the-line THAAD system, recently sent to South Korea, would struggle to destroy a large salvo from North Korea, and the price of installing and using the entire system, interceptors included, would cost into the billions. Additionally, THAAD’s high-powered radar capability makes China extremely nervous, as they believe it could limit their ability to respond to a nuclear strike from the US.
Meanwhile, a solid state laser can be fired continuously for dollars a minute, about what you’d pay for electricity in your home. Though building the platform would cost millions in research, development, and testing.
Traditionally, while boost-phase interception looks more attractive on paper because it hits the missile in a more vulnerable stage, it’s been impractical because the interceptor has to be close to the projectile.
So there’s just no way the US could intercept a missile fired from central Russia or China in its boost phase. With a small country like North Korea though, US drones right off the border could melt down missiles with a light-speed weapon in the cloudless upper atmosphere.
“This would be far more efficient to have boost-phase intercept capability over that territory at that height to handle that,” said Ellison. “As North Korea develops countermeasures, decoys, multiple reentry vehicles, and all the things that will continue to evolve, you have a great opportunity to eliminate all those advancing technologies before all that gets dispersed.”
The MDA hopes to field this technology by 2023, at which point most experts agree North Korea will have perfected an intercontinental ballistic missile.
During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.
Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.
Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.
Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.
In leaked documents, newly published by The Washington Post and ZDF, the CIA describes how it pulled off “the intelligence coup of the century:” for decades, a company that sold encryption devices to more than 120 countries was secretly owned and operated by the CIA itself.
The company, Crypto AG, was acquired by the CIA at the height of the Cold War. Through a classified partnership with West Germany’s spy agency, the CIA designed Crypto AG’s encryption devices in a way that let the agency easily decrypt and read all messages sent by the company’s clients.
Some details of Crypto AG’s coordination with US intelligence agencies had been previously reported — a 1995 investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed that the National Security Agency reached an agreement with Crypto AG executives to secretly rig encryption devices. However, the newly-published CIA report unveils the full extent of the US’ operation of Crypto AG.
For decades, Crypto AG was the leading provider of encryption services. It boasted hundreds of clients ranging from the Vatican to Iran, generating millions of dollars in profits. The CIA maintained control over the company until at least 2008, when the agency’s confidential report obtained by The Post was drafted.
Crypto AG was liquidated in 2018, and its assets were purchased by two other companies: CyOne Security and Crypto International. Both have denied any current connection to the CIA, and Crypto International chairman Andreas Linde told The Post that he “feels betrayed” by the revelation.
“Crypto International and Crypto AG are two completely separate companies without any relationship,” a spokesperson for Crypto International said in a statement to Business Insider. “Crypto International is a Swedish owned company that in 2018 acquired the brand name and other assets from Crypto AG … We have no connections to the CIA or the BND and we never had.”
A representative for CyOne Security did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.
In a statement to Business Insider, CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett declined to confirm or deny the report, saying the agency is “aware of press reporting about an alleged U.S. government program and do not have any guidance.”
Crypto AG began selling encryption devices in 1940, marketing a mechanical device that was powered by a crank. The CIA reportedly purchased the company with a handshake deal in 1951, which was renewed with a secretive “licensing agreement” in 1960.
In the decades that followed, the CIA oversaw technical advances in Crypto AG’s devices, shifting to electronic devices. The company reportedly contracted with Siemens and Motorola to modernize its gadgets.
The CIA’s surveillance continued through the 1990s and 2000s, even as Crypto AG’s revenue began to dwindle. It was ultimately dissolved in 2018 and sold for between million and million, according to anonymous current and former officials quoted by The Post.
Read the full report by The Washington Post and ZDF here.
The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.
Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.
A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)
Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.
The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.
Over the past few years, public awareness of veteran suicide has increased and, more importantly, people are more aware than ever before of the resources available to help struggling veterans and active-duty service members. However, in the past year, we’ve noticed a disturbing new aspect of the problem — there have been a number of recent suicides among high-profile veterans who stood as beacons of hope for others in the suicide prevention movement.
At the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), our Red Team has been reflecting on these losses and their impact on suicide prevention and postvention efforts across the military and veteran community.
The late Pfc. Kevin S. Jacobs, United States Marine Corps infantryman. Pfc. Kevin Jacobs struggled with anxiety, emotional pain, and grief due to his experiences at war. Both he and his brother Bryan Keith Jacobs a veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman suffered from PTSD and emotionally began to drift apart. Kevin’s experiences eventually got the best of him, and on Memorial Day, May 28, 2014, Kevin died by suicide. (Guest Photo by Bryan Keith Jacobs, U.S. Navy Veteran)
If any among us believes that suicide is an act of weakness, we should alter our thinking: even the strongest of us — the fierce tribe of warriors who fight our wars — sometimes die by suicide. A man or woman can be a hero to many, noted for his or her uncommon bravery and unconquerable fighting spirit, and still be at risk. Such a man or woman is a true hero.
A second truth is that death by suicide leaves a wake of loss, risk, and regret that is devastating to our community. Many times, I have witnessed and walked with veterans who are cut to the core by this kind of loss. They often say that they “did not see it coming.” In addition to shock and overwhelming grief, they often feel angry that their brother or sister did not reach out to them. Far too often have I heard, “I would have dropped everything to be there if I had only known.”
Soldiers with 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, behavioral health team, host a Cars Against Suicide Car Show Dec. 1, 2017 at Fort Stewart, Ga. The Cars against Suicide event was hosted by 2nd ABCT in an effort to promote awareness and offer resources to help prevent suicide. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Robert Winns)
They also express a deep sense of helplessness, a kind of helplessness that puts them directly at risk for self-destructive actions. And sometimes, when they think of losing a leader among them to suicide, they feel great fear. If this fear had a voice, it might say, “if suicide felt like the only option for a person this strong, what does that mean for me?”
These reactions are the last thing their hero would have wanted them to think and feel.
A family and an entire community can be changed forever based on a decision made in one day of suffocating despair. There is the heroic life lived, but also the death that leaves behind more loss and destruction. How can we make sense of senseless loss?
Based on our work with veterans and military service members over the past ten years, here are 3 things we offer for the community to consider.
3. The tribe is stronger than the power of despair.
To learn to be seamlessly interdependent is to reach the summit of our human potential — it is not a sign of weakness. The lifeblood of those who do battle together is love and trust between those who would lay their lives down for each other.
Connection with the tribe is the protective factor that buffers against despair and disconnection, even in the most extreme situations. This bond of trust is stronger than despair and, when the tribe comes together and locks shields, it has a power that can defeat demons.
2. Balancing legacy and prevention.
Suicidal thinking arises in the context of a perfect storm of events; there’s never just one precipitating event. Self-destructive acts are most often the result of a combination of overwhelming mental anguish, physical pain, a biochemistry altered by chronically poor sleep, and events that create a perception of acute hopelessness. What are we to do if a perfect storm presents itself to us? Here, we can continue to find meaning and hope from the life of a hero and the things that he or she stood for.
While it is important to honor the life lived, it is equally important to balance that message with education, resources, and support around preventing additional suicides. We must think about the message that he or she carried over many years of life, while also understanding the contributing factors of that single, perfect-storm day. What did the person argue for with all of their energies while they were alive? Can their death be used to support the message that was so important during their life? Did this person advocate for turning to one’s tribe, for trusting in one’s community to supply the strength to fight demons? Was this person able to do for themselves what they encouraged in others?
These are the lessons learned on the look back that balance preventing another loss of life with the heroic life lived.
1. Leaders also need the tribe.
Finally, those who stand as a beacon of hope may have some under-appreciated vulnerabilities. Veterans are often driven to find a next mission and derive a great sense of purpose — sometimes even life-saving purpose — from inspiring others to stay in the fight. However, when veterans become caregivers and public examples of strength, there is an additional pressure that is placed on their shoulders as they hold the hope of their brothers and sisters. Veterans have expressed to us that as soon as they became a caregiver of other veterans, they have felt, in some indescribable way, a door is closed to them in terms of seeking help for themselves.
As we work with veteran and military leaders, we have observed that their first instinct is often to isolate in the hope of “getting it together” when their stress feels overwhelming. It runs against their instincts, developed through training and culture, to turn to their tribe when they themselves need support. This does not mean that they do not believe in the value of help-seeking, but may feel shame and guilt when they need it for themselves.
Maybe these leaders and heroes become like a lighthouse, helping keep other people safe, holding strong against the storm. But what happens when the lighthouse itself becomes enveloped by lashing waves and raging seas? How does it signal distress? Who looks out for the lighthouse and how can we make sure that all can turn towards the tribe of those they love and trust to lend them strength to fight their demons? Leaders also need the tribe.
When we’re aware a perfect storm is brewing, one of the best things we can do is connect the person with their tribe and with resources that can help — whether that person is a peer or a leader.
TAPS offers comprehensive, best-practice postvention support services for suicide loss survivors, including the 24/7 Helpline (1-800-959-TAPS), virtual groups and chats for survivors, and on-the-ground events and gatherings.
Veterans and their loved ones can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Shauna Springer is the Senior Director of TAPS Red Team within the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Dr. Springer is a licensed psychologist with an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a Doctoral degree from the University of Florida. Known to many veterans as “Doc Springer,” she has helped hundreds of warriors reconnect with their tribe, strengthen their most important relationships, and build lives that are driven by their deepest values. TAPS Red Team provides training and consultation related to suicide prevention and postvention to clinicians, military leadership, policymakers, and organizations.