Writers Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman have made a very, very smart decision.
By the looks of things, they’re giving the belovéd Ghostbusters universe a complete makeover by honing in on supernatural mystery while still maintaining the comedic levity of the original film. After the underwhelming 2016 reboot (ahhhh there was so much potential there and yet…so much disappointment), it looks like Juno’s Reitman (who will also direct) just might strike the perfect chord for this franchise.
Hop in your Ectomobile (because the kids in this film sure do) and let’s go for a ride:
Opening on a sleepy rural town plagued by unexplainable earthquakes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a true sequel to the original films, including references to the supernatural activity of the 80s.
Single mother Carrie Coon (who is fantastic in everything she does — did you see Gone Girl? Why isn’t everyone talking about her at every moment?) and her kids (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and The Haunting of Hill House’s Mckenna Grace, who is also a killer talent) inherit a family farmhouse that’s definitely definitely haunted.
With the help of Paul Rudd, they learn that they are descended from an OG Ghostbuster, which explains the ghost traps and Ectomobile on the property.
I’d watch him do anything. Honestly, anything. He’s perfect.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Sony Pictures
The trailer hints at a great Stranger Things-like vibe, which is very sexy right now, mixed with just the right amount of nostalgia and humor. And if that’s not enough to tingle your Twinkie then I’ll remind you that the film is rumored to include cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife will open in theaters July 2020.
The fate of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners jailed in Afghanistan is threatening to turn into a major stumbling block in efforts to end the 19-year war in the country.
The Taliban is demanding the release of the detainees before the launch of direct negotiations between Afghans and the Taliban over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing arrangement.
Those intra-Afghan talks, slated for mid-March, will begin after the United States and the Taliban sign a historic peace deal that will trigger the phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Experts said the issue of Taliban prisoners could be a key obstacle in launching the country’s peace talks or, conversely, be used as a bargaining chip to exact concessions from the militants.
There are fears that the release of thousands of Taliban fighters could deprive the Kabul government of a key amount of leverage and undercut the peace process by strengthening the Taliban’s position on the battlefield.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on February 26 that Kabul will free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces held by the militants.
Shaheen said the “trust-building measure” was a prerequisite for the launch of the intra-Afghan talks.
He added that the prisoner release was part of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, although Afghanistan is not a signatory to that bilateral agreement.
But the Taliban and the United States have not yet disclosed the contents of the deal.
The Kabul government has ruled out releasing the prisoners before the start of talks.
“When we, as the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, enter into negotiations with the Taliban and they demand the release of their prisoners, it will naturally be discussed, and will take into account the laws and interests of our people and [our decision] will be based on the consensus that will arise at that stage,” said Sediq Sediqqi, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, on February 20.
‘Quid Pro Quo’
Omar Samad, a former Afghan diplomat who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the issue could be used as a “political stumbling block or a bargaining chip.”
“Bargaining chip can mean quid pro quo,” he said.
Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said the Afghan government could offer the Taliban a major concession before intra-Afghan talks with the expectation that the militants will reciprocate.
Kugelman said that could mean the insurgents agreeing to reduce violence during the negotiations, which analysts expect to be complicated and protracted.
The United States and the Taliban agreed to a weeklong reduction of violence across Afghanistan before the signing of the peace deal. The partial truce has largely held, with a dramatic decrease in Taliban attacks from around 75 per day down to under 15.
The militants contest or control nearly half of the country.
A similar truce during intra-Afghan talks has been mooted, although the Taliban has not commented on the possibility.
But analysts warned that there was a risk in the government giving away one of its primary bargaining chips at such an early stage of the peace process.
“The Taliban has ample leverage because it’s in no hurry to conclude a peace deal,” said Kugelman. “If it receives a major concession it may hold out and demand more before giving something up in return.”
10,000 Taliban Prisoners
There are an estimated 10,000 Taliban prisoners being held in Afghanistan. But the militants have said that some of those detained were accused of being sympathizers or members of the group, often to settle old scores, and are not actually combatants.
There have been several high-profile prisoner swaps and releases of insurgents since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.
In November 2019, two Western hostages were released from Taliban custody in exchange for three senior Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction.
The prisoner swap was seen as an attempt to kick-start U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks over rising Taliban attacks.
In 2014, five senior Taliban members were released from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.
All five former Guantanamo Bay detainees are based in Qatar, where they have taken part in negotiations with U.S. officials.
In 2013, former President Hamid Karzai controversially released scores of Taliban prisoners from a formerly U.S.-run prison near Kabul as an attempt to convince the militants to open direct talks with Kabul.
The move failed to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Analysts said some of those freed returned to the Taliban, bolstered their ranks, and increased the insurgency’s efficacy on the battlefield.
The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”
Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.
Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.
While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.
The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.
The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.
All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.
The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)
The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.
The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.
The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.
The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.
The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)
The 160th was born out of tragedy.
The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.
During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.
The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.
What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.
The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.
Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)
The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.
“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.
Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”
Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.
US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Women in the 160th see combat too.
“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.
A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.
The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.
“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.
“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.
The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.
The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.
“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.
The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.
MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.
These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.
The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.
The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.
More than 16 million Americans fought in World War II. When those brave veterans of the ‘Greatest Generation’ returned home, many of them refused to talk about it. Now, in a race against time, one veteran’s son took on the mission of making sure their stories are told.
Charley Valera’s father Giovanni “Gene” Valera was in the legendary 8th Army Air Force’s 93rd Bombardment Group in the European Theater. But Charley didn’t know anything about it until a full ten years after his father passed away.
Now, the younger Valera is trying to help families in a similar situation by interviewing and collecting the stories of WWII veterans from all ranks, all theaters, and all branches. With veterans recalling the stories they never did – or never could – tell their families, he hopes to devote equal time to every story he can capture forever. Stories like Santo DiSalvo’s (below), who was drafted into the Army on Mar. 5, 1943.
Now, having collected so many stories and interviews, Charley Valera has compiled them into a book, My Father’s War: Memories From Our Honored WWII Soldiers. His hope is that families can learn about their loved ones’ sacrifices and bravery in the biggest conflict ever fought by mankind.
“We all know someone who was there, fighting in WWII,” says Charley Valera. “We also know they didn’t talk about their war efforts. The simply say ‘I was just doing my job.'”
My Father’s War contains ten stories (and some very honorable mentions) from World War II veterans of many ranks and branches, in their own words. Included are personal photographs and letters from their time on the battlefields that detail what happened and how they felt about it – then and now.
The book is a fascinating compendium of personal narratives. You don’t have to jump in and read it cover to cover. It’s a book that is easily put down and picked back up so you can consume these stories and truly think about the fortitude and bravery it took to swallow your fear and do the job.
And then keep it all bottled up inside when you come back home.
Charley Valera’s mission is personally driven but his motivation is a beautiful and altruistic one. Consider that only 9 surviving Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and Korea are alive today — while those stories are firmly in the history books, imagine how many were never told and never seen, but still worthy of high praise.
Furthermore, this book details how men went from citizen to soldier, fighting the good fight, seemingly overnight. They aren’t just war stories, they’re personal stories from a generation that will soon be gone, enshrined forever.
Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is cool. But it’s not real.
The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit was supposed to be a real version to protect America’s special operations forces when going into harm’s way.
The TALOS suit “was chartered to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technology to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately to enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF operator of the future,” Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, Socom’s commander, said at the National Defense Industries Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium here yesterday.
The joint acquisition task force for the suit was established in November 2013 and banked on breakthrough technology — or technologies — to protect special operators, Votel said. Socom, he said, put together an unprecedented group from industry, academia and government to develop the prototype.
A Holistic System
Future prototype suits have exoskeletons that augment the power of the operators, Votel explained. They will also feature helmets with heads-up display technology. Other future prototypes will feature cooling/heating systems and medical sensors to monitor an operator’s vital signs.
“It’s a holistic system with open systems architecture, so if a new technology rises we can swap it in,” said a joint task force member speaking on background during a recent interview at Socom at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. “Survivability is our number-one tenet. We have to look not only at the integration of current systems for personal protective equipment, but also to augment the guy’s motion.”
This is serious science with risks and serious trade-offs, and the task force’s main effort this year was to “get as many smart people working on it as possible,” the task force member said.
A rapid prototyping event was held in Tampa from April to June 2014. “The idea of the event was to bring industry , Interagency [and] academia together with special operators to accelerate the development of the technology and accelerate the brainstorming of the ideas for the suit and the project,” said a task force member.
It worked. More than 200 people from a wide range of disciplines answered the open call. “Putting those people in one room enabled cross polinization and an incredible collaborative teamwork atmosphere,” the task force member said.
But the rapid prototyping event was more than simply charting the way ahead of theorizing on how the various parts would fit together, the task force member said. There were 3D computer modeling designers participating, he added.
“People could explore concepts by seeing what it would look like, how it would fit, how it would affect other aspects of the design,” an engineer said. “Usually in [Defense Department] contracting you don’t get that kind of immediate feedback. We could actually have a physical model of what we were thinking about.”
The team went from cutting designs from foam to sculpting it from clay to 3D printing the prototypes. “We were able to try a group of different ideas with the experts in the room,” a task force member said.
The suit sadly didn’t materialize as planned.
Going into the rapid prototyping event, the task force members had ideas of what the problems were going to be and the event confirmed them. “It also pointed to ways we can surmount those challenges and pointed out challenges we really didn’t think would be that tough,” the engineer of the group said.
An untethered power source was a big problem, officials said. The power will be needed to operate the exoskeleton, cool or heat the operator and fuel all the sensors in the suit. “Identifying an untethered power source for extended duration is one leap of technology,” one official said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist in that man-portable size technology. If someone has an arc reactor in their basement, I know how they can make a lot of money.”
The task force looked at novel materials and materials used in different configurations. “If you could make armor that was super, super light and is a leap in technology, that buys down some of our other problems,” an official said. “We wouldn’t need as much power, for example.
“We’re looking to get those leaps of technologies,” he continued. “Those leaps of capabilities to the guys so they can do their jobs better than they do now.”
Suit Sensor Challenges
Another challenge is with the suit’s sensors, officials said. One problem deals with latency — the time between when a sensor detects something and when it is transmitted to the brain. Night-vision goggles are immediate — there is zero-difference from when the sensor picks it up and it hits the eye.
“When I move my head, the picture is with me all the time,” the engineer said. “The problem with current visual solutions right now is when I move my head, it lags and takes a second to catch up.”
Today, even the best prototype sensor solution still creates nausea after being under it for 30 minutes.
The task force never forgets they are developing this suit for real people, for comrades in arms, and they have constant interaction with operators, officials said. “The last thing you want to do is build a suit that nobody wants to get inside,” said one task force member.
The task force has given various pieces of technology to operators to test. Recently, operators tested various heads-up displays. They also had user assessment of the first-year exoskeletons. “We had operators from all components strap them on and run through an obstacle course,” one task force member said. “We also did functional movement tests. It gives the operators the chance to come and tell us what they liked and disliked about the prototypes.”
TALOS has a number of civilian uses as well, officials said. Firefighters may find the initial prototype passive load bearing exoskeleton suits handy, as would other people working in extreme environments. The results of tests will be seen not only in the special operations community, but in improved ballistic protection for all service members.
On the wall of the task force building is a countdown calendar. The day of the interview, the number read 877 — the days left before the Mark 5 first prototype suit must be ready for testing.
“We know why we’re doing this,” one member of the task force said. “This is life-saving technology. There are challenges, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.” The suit design was eventually declared a bust in 2019. Will a new version be attempted one day? Who knows, but it would be cool if it was!
Marine Corps F-35s recently carried out the first at-sea “hot reload” of ordnance, dropping 1,000-pound bombs in the Pacific in rapid succession, the Marines said in a statement.
Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters armed with a 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb took off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and conducted a strike on a “killer tomato,” a large red inflatable target.
After dropping its payload, the aircraft quickly returned to the ship, refueled, reloaded, and set out on a second attack run on the floating target.
The fifth-generation stealth fighters also opened fire with their GAU-22 cannon, which can uses four barrels simultaneously to fire 3,300 rounds per minute. The 25 mm gun is, according to Military.com, carried on an external pod on the Marine Corps’ F-35 variation, which is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings on the amphibs, basically small aircraft carriers.
At-sea hot reloading is a critical capability that allows for the surge offensive air support for strike missions in this theater, where US forces are increasingly training to fight in contested environments. While the training is not directly aimed at any particular adversary, the US military is focused on great power competition and is training for a high-intensity conflict with China and Russia.
“Our recent F-35B strike rehearsals demonstrate the 31st MEU’s lethality and readiness to address potential adversaries.” Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard the Wasp, said in a statement. “The speed that we can conduct precision strikes with devastating effects while providing close air support to our Marines is nothing shy of awesome. Bottom-line; the F-35B defines shock and awe!”
An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Sallese, aviation ordnance officer with the 31st MEU, said that the troops are learning to “rain down destruction like never before.”
Marine F-35Bs with the 31st MEU achieved another milestone earlier this year, flying in “beast mode” and conducting strike missions with externally-loaded inert and live munitions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On July 1, 2019, Boeing announced that T-X aircraft N381TX flew the first official Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) flight test from Boeing’s St Louis plant in Missouri. Boeing did not disclose further details about this flight although the Chief T-X Test Pilot, Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt, said: “She flew just superb. First EMD test points went off without a hitch”.
The aircraft is one of the two company-funded prototypes built for the Air Force T-X Advanced Pilot Training program and modified into the EMD design after the first flight test campaign. The two aircraft performed 72 test flights between December 2016 and December 2018, gathering data ahead of the EMD testing. During the last months, Boeing and Saab (rear fuselage supplier for T-X) modified the prototypes with ACES 5 ejection seat, an updated On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) and other minor changes. Boeing is counting on completing the critical design review of the final EMD configuration by the end of 2019.
The two T-X prototypes in formation during a flight test.
The U.S. Air Force awarded the $ 9.2 billion T-X contract to Boeing and Saab in September 2018 for 350 trainer aircraft, 46 ground-based training systems and related ground equipment, with other 125 aircraft on option.
The first five aircraft and seven simulators will be delivered to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph (Texas) in 2023, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) planned by the end of 2024 and Full Operational Capability (FOC) planned by 2034. The T-X trainer is due to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon, the world’s first supersonic and most produced jet trainer, that has been in service for over 50 years.
The new aircraft is powered by a single General Electric Aviation F404 engine (the same engine used by the Saab Gripen C/D and legacy F/A-18) and has a design similar to the F/A-18, with leading-edge root extensions (LERX) and twin tails that can provide high performance training for pilots that will fly US front-line fighters. The cockpit features a touchscreen large-area display (LAD), digital Up-Front Controller (UFC) and standby instruments, Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls and a low profile Head-Up Display (HUD), much like the F-35 cockpit or the proposed cockpits for Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Block III and F-15X and Saab’s Gripen E.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Landing a plane on an aircraft carrier is a very dangerous task. Even the movies recognize this – remember the harrowing crash that kills off Charlton Heston’s character in Midway? So, just how easily can a carrier landing go bad?
Very easily. Take a look at all that’s involved: Unlike landing at an air force base, the target is moving. There’s also a lot less space. Yes, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is four and a half acres of sovereign United States territory, but that’s still much smaller than Mountain Home Air Force Base.
There’s also a much shorter stopping distance. Mountain Home Air Force Base a has a runway that’s 13,510 feet long. A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is all of 1,092 feet long — the angled deck used for landing doesn’t even span the length of the carrier. A plane landing has to catch one of four arresting wires and, if it does, there’s always a chance the wire might snap.
Managing that landing is rough, too. If you’re too high, you don’t catch the runway. Too low, you have a ramp strike.
There’s a reason that carrier landings, especially at night, have caused naval aviators stress. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article noted that these nighttime landings cause pilots more anxiety than combat. The risk is always there, no matter how much training and technology goes into improving the skills of pilots or making things easier.
Technology breaks, planes can be damaged (as was the case at the end of Midway), or some pilot’s luck just happens to run out on some cold night out at sea. When carrier landings go bad, the pilot’s only recourse is to trust in an ejection seat and the luck that’s betrayed him once already. Check out the Navy training video covering these horrible mishaps below:
The logistics of moving supplies, equipment, and civilian first responders into a disaster area while the storm rages require long, sleepless nights, Herculean effort, and no room for error. And the evacuation of victims before, during, and after the storm passes is dangerous at times.
During Hurricane Matthew, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen all stepped up to help those affected by the devastation. Here are 16 photos that show these brave folks in action:
A GOES-13 satellite image of Hurricane Matthew as it passes over the Bahamas. (U.S. Navy photo)
A South Carolina National Guard’s CH-47F Chinook, heavy-lift, helicopter assigned to Detachment 1, Company B, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion, 59th Aviation Troop Command, lands at the Whale Branch Early College High School and delivers water and food supplies to the community of Seabrook in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 9, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine)
You may know that most veterans can be buried in state and national veterans cemeteries for little or no money, but what about their spouses and other dependents?
Your spouse may be eligible to be buried with you in a veterans cemetery at little or no cost. However, if you and your spouse have divorced and they have remarried, they probably aren’t eligible. Dependent children may also be eligible. Some parents of those killed on active duty may also be eligible.
As always, only veterans with an other-than-dishonorable discharge (and their dependents) qualify for this burial benefit. There are also other restrictions against those found guilty of certain crimes.
The Vietnam war gave us a lot of things: Zippos, M16s and the list goes on. Before it popped off, there hadn’t been a war like it; it was highly televised, deeply protested and involved heavy use of special operations units. From this war came tons of stories of heroism and courage in the face of extreme danger. One such story that stands out from the rest is that of U.S. Army Captain William Albracht.
Albracht graduated from Alleman Catholic High School in Illinois in 1966 and found himself in Vietnam just three years later. He wasn’t just a Green Beret captain, he was the youngest Green Beret captain in the entire country. He took command of a hilltop outpost known as Firebase Kate with a total of 27 American Soldiers and 156 Montagnard militiamen. This is where Captain Albracht earned his place in history and solidified his status as an American badass.
This is the story of the youngest Green Beret captain in Vietnam:
Landing Zone Kate, also referred to as Firebase White, was built in 1969 on a hilltop northwest of Quang Dug Province in Southern Vietnam. It was near the Cambodian border. It was also the first command for Captain Albracht, who was just 21 at the time.
The young captain saw the hilltop location as problematic, primarily because the North Vietnamese Army controlled the nearby road and could freely fire from Cambodia. To make matters worse, supplying the base was also a very tricky.
Supplies & discipline
Since the NVA controlled the road, supplies and personnel for LZ Kate could only be delivered via helicopter. Despite each delivery being protected by a wide range of aircraft, Captain Albracht felt it wasn’t enough support for their location.
On top of that, Sergeant Daniel Pierelli arrived ahead of Captain Albracht to find the troops located there playing volleyball and lounging around instead of preparing to defend the place. He and Captain Albracht made sure to address this before increasing patrols in an effort to gain more intelligence on the NVA. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
Siege at LZ Kate
On the morning of October 29th, the NVA launched the first assault on the Firebase, outnumbering the defenders 40 to 1. For the next few days, the men there sustained heavy casualties from small-arms gunfire, mortars, rockets, and artillery.
The wounded included Captain Albracht, who sustained a shrapnel wound in his arm on October 29th while he directed a medevac helicopter. He was given the opportunity to leave, but instead decided to stay at Kate and continue to lead his men.
A great escape
Supplies dwindled fast, and the situation wasn’t getting any better. Eventually, on November 1st, Captain Albracht realized Kate could not be saved and decided they needed to escape. They destroyed their gun tubes, artillery ammo, and anything that could be considered intelligence before slipping away.
He, along with around 150 men, eventually arrived at another Special Forces camp, only losing one American soldier in the jungle. In the early hours of November 2nd, they linked up with SF Mike Force, their closest allies. To do so, Captain Albracht had to cross an open field three times, putting himself at risk of being spotted by the enemy, to ensure the safety of his men.
Due to his heroics, the men safely escaped.
Captain William Albracht
For his service and actions during the war, he earned three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, and five Bronze Stars. After the war, he continued serving his country in the Secret Service, guarding five presidents during his time. He then went on to manage security for the Ford Motor Company.
He returned home to Illinois in 2005 and, in 2012, he ran for Senator for Illinois’ 36th district. He co-wrote the book, Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate, and his story is featured in a documentary entitled Escape from Firebase Kate.
When the Navy called on women to volunteer for shore service during World War II to free up men for duty at sea, 102-year-old Melva Dolan Simon was among the first to raise her hand and take the oath.
“I went in so sailors could board ships and go do what they were supposed to be doing,” said Simon. She recalled her military service as “something different” in an era when women traditionally stayed home while men went off to war. “I helped sailors get on their way.”
Simon was the first woman in her hometown of Bridgeport, Pa., to join the WAVES, according to a yellowed clipping of a 1942 newspaper article. She was also among the first in the nation to join the service. It was just three months earlier, on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the law establishing the corps.
“I had a good job with the school, but I felt I would be doing more for my country by being in the service,” said Simon.
The seventh of 12 children, Simon said she chose the Navy because several of her brothers were already serving in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
WWII Navy WAVES Veteran Melva Dolan Simon’s service memorabilia includes her rank and insignia, photos and official documents.
“They were all enlisted, and I thought, well, what’s wrong with joining the Navy?” said Simon. “I decided I wanted to go, and I was accepted.”
“That’s where we learned the basics of the Navy,” said Simon. “We were trained to march, we studied hard, and they drilled into us how important what we were doing was.”
After completing basic, many of the WAVES trainees spent another 12 weeks at the college for advanced training in secretarial duties.
From Oklahoma, Simon was assigned to active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which during World War II employed 40,000, built 53 warships and repaired another 1,218. She and her fellow yeomen earned anywhere from to 5 in basic pay per month, depending on their rank, plus food and quarters allowance, unless provided by the Navy.
Simon lived on the all-female fourth floor of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. WAVES personnel were under strict orders not to visit any other floors of the hotel – an order Simon said she followed.
“I didn’t go on the other floors,” said Simon, sternly. “It was none of my business.”
Simon’s military responsibilities included taking dictation from the officer in charge, performing clerical duties and driving officers around the base.
“They gave me a driver’s license for the Navy, and I would drive these officers, sometimes just very short distances,” Simon said, smiling as she motioned from her seat at a dining room table to the far side of her kitchen. “I thought that was interesting because it would have done them some good if they’d just walked.”
Simon wrote letters home to her family at first, then sent her parents money to have a home phone installed. Simon said that home phones were a luxury at the time. Before they installed the phone, her family used a telephone at a nearby store to call her.
“I sent them money every payday to keep the phone bill paid,” Simon said. “It was much easier to call than to sit down and write, especially since I was writing all day at the office.”
The phone also allowed her future husband, Joseph “Joe” Simon, to keep in touch with her. The two had met at the high school where Joe Simon worked as an agriculture teacher, and he’d visit with her when she was home on leave. They married in July 1945, just a few weeks before Melva Simon received an honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1945.
WAVES standing in formation.
The couple purchased a 22-acre farm in 1947 in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., where they supplemented Joe’s teacher’s salary by growing and selling sweet corn.
“It sold like hot fire because it was good sweet corn,” Melva Simon said. “Then Joe planted apple trees, and that’s what we decided to do.”
The couple started an apple orchard — Simon’s Apple Orchard — that remains family-run today. The orchard opens its doors to customers every fall, offering everything from pure sweet cider still made using the Simons’ original recipe to bags of fresh McIntosh, Stayman, Rome, Jonathan, red and yellow delicious, and other apple varieties.
At the VA
Melva Simon worked the orchard alongside her husband, then took over when he died in 2004 at the age of 88. Still spry at 102, she drove tractors, harvested apples, made cider and worked the counter at a small shop on the property until just a few years ago.
Blessed with a lifetime of good health, Melva Simon only recently discovered she is eligible for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the help of her daughter, Melvajo Bennett, the World War II veteran has, since August, received care through VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Westmoreland County VA Outpatient Clinic.
“It didn’t dawn on her to go to the VA because she’s always had such good health and never really had to see the doctor,” said Bennett. “But they’ve been wonderful with how they are treating her.”
Asked for the secret to good health and a long life, Melva Simon gave a simple answer.
“There is no secret,” she said. “All it takes is simple living. I eat simple food. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”
As for her military service, Melva Simon said she’d do it all over again.
“That was all I ever wanted to do, was to do something for the government and the country,” she said. “I’d do it again.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Located in Southern California, Naval Base San Diego is the second largest surface ship base in the United States. Deploying on a ship with a critical mission is supposed to be one of the proudest moment for any sailor. Those aboard get a chance to serve their country by performing the righteous duties for which they’ve trained hard — in theory, anyway.
In reality, being underway means doing a ton of cleaning and other tasks that fall outside of your regular MOS.
It’s not like what you see in those cool television commercials. You won’t be working with sailors in the intel room trying to defeat an enemy force while listening to the soothing tone of Keith David’s voiceover. In fact, it’s almost the complete opposite.
Going on watch
If you’ve ever watched paint dry, then you know exactly how it feels to be on watch — you stare at nothing, waiting for anything to happen. Watch is, by far, is the most critical responsibility on any Naval vessel, but it can also be the most painful. You’re looking out for incoming threats, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.
That is, unless you’re in foreign seas and Somalian pirates are feeling ballsy.
Using these little computers in our pockets, making a call to anyone around the world is as easy as picking up your phone and dialing. However, being underway means you’re not going to have any cell service — much to the devastation of millennials.
The idea of not knowing what everyone’s doing back home or what’s happening in the rest of the world can be a little unsettling. After weeks of limited-to-no connectivity, that moment when you reach port and see service bars on your phone is glorious.
After a long day, it’s finally time to hit the sack — but you don’t get to sleep in a big bed like you did back home. You get to sleep in a rack that looks and feels like a coffin. It may be comfortable for vampires, but for everyone else, it’s anything but that.
Let’s be real, three-man bunks with a minimum of 20 to 30 roommates — does this sound like a good time to you?
Sweepers, sweepers, all hands man your stations
If you’re a sailor, you know how this feels. Once you wake up and get ready for your day, you know what’s about to happen. So, grab a broom and get to cleaning, because there’s always a petty officer around the corner reminding you to do so.
Welcome to hell.
It sounds easy at first, but after a day of working on the ship, the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up another freakin’ broom — trust us.
Leaving your family
This is a topic that all veterans can relate to. Above all else, the reason we continue to fight is to protect the many families of our nation. Leaving them behind is extremely difficult. You have been their sworn protector for as long as you can remember, and now you must leave them to fulfill your obligations to our great country.
Saying goodbye to your loved ones — and not knowing exactly when you will return — is, by far, one of the hardest things about going underway.