I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it's really like. - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

Military Life

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Every military installation has its ups and downs. You could be assigned to a tropical paradise, but you can’t afford anything off-base. You could be assigned to a breathtaking foreign country, but learning the local language will take some time. Or, you could be assigned to Thule Air Base in Greenland, where there’s literally nothing but ice and rock for 65 miles (and, even then, it’s just a remote Eskimo village).


The multinational team stationed there consists of around 400 Danish troops, 150 American troops, and a handful of Canadians. Team Thule is charged with tracking satellites and orbiting debris using a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), a remnant from the Cold War by being strategically placed roughly halfway between Moscow and New York City.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

The BMEWS is still manned and operated by both American and Danish troops. Denmark holds territorial claim over Greenland but gave them “Home Rule” in 1979 and Greenlanders voted for self-governance in 2008. Denmark still handles much of the defense of Greenland, however.

Troops at Thule are locked out from the rest of the world by the ice for nine months, so during the three “summer” months, everyone loads up on supplies that’ll last them the rest of the year. Thule is also home to the Air Force’s only Tug Boat, the Rising Star, which it uses for these resupply missions.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Just an average day at Thule Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

The Military One Source Pamphlet hilariously tries to downplay the roughness of Thule while also telling you that there are no ATMs, no commissary, the PX is extremely limited, and there’s all of one bar and a single “base taxi.”

But hey! At least every barracks room comes with free WiFi and it’s kind of accepted that everyone shelters-in-place during the four-month-long Polar Night where winds can reach 200 mph and the temperatures are -28.

Articles

11 hiding spots for an E-4 to sham

Yeah. Sure. Not every E-4 has an engine room to hide out in, but there are plenty of other places to skate.


Now, there’s a fine line between when you just need a moment to yourself and when you’re screwing over your comrades — don’t be the guy who crosses this line.

If you need to hide, do it in a place where you’re only just a call away. That way you can keep shamming and your buddies can still cover for you.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
You can’t win wars without ’em. (Image courtesy of Under the Radar)

This list is purely for entertainment purposes. If you get caught and blame it on an article you read — that’s on you.

1. In plain sight

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

If you look like you’re squared away, people will assume you are…and will be none the wiser if you conveniently aren’t around when there’s a call for parade practice volunteers.

2. Sick Call

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Some say it’s “malingering.” Others say it’s “documenting it for the VA down the road.”

3.  Dental

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

As long as you actually show up, your leader shouldn’t see an issue with you getting your teeth taken care of.

4. Smoke Pit

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

How many times have we all heard the phrase “if you smoke, take five to ten. If you don’t, I need you to…”

There’s a lot of new faces around the smoke pit whenever they hear that.

5. Alterations

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Hey. You never know when the next Dress Uniform inspection is. Why not take the time to get it ready?

6. Post/Base Exchange (PX/BX)

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

You’d be amazed at how lenient everyone becomes when you say the phrase “Anyone want anything from the shopette?”

#7. Inside a vehicle

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Motor Pool Mondays. Someone has to check to see if the air conditioner is working or not.

8. Latrine

via GIPHYIf you got to go, you got to go. Just turn the sound off your phone before you play games.

 9. Charge of Quarters (CQ)

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Always try to get duty on a Thursday or the day before a four day starts. Who doesn’t want an extended weekend?

10. Barracks

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Be sure to use buzz words like “spotless” and “maintained” before sneaking off to play that new game you picked up earlier at the PX/BX.

11. Behind your rank

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

It’s called a “Sham Shield” for a reason. Push that duty onto someone else while you wait for close of business formation.

*Bonus* At Fort Couch

If none of these places work for you and you just have to sham, PCS to Fort Couch. No one will get on you to do anything. You really will be on your “own f-cking program.”

via GIPHY
Articles

Navy upgrades 8 valor awards for SEALs

On Jan. 13, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented eight Navy Crosses and eight Silver Stars to active-duty and former members of East and West Coast Naval Special Warfare Commands at a ceremony in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
U.S. Navy file photo of Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, of San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The upgrade for Keating was first reported by Stars and Stripes.

“Today we honor some of our nation’s finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate,” Mabus said. “This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country.”

These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy’s Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.

The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.

According to Keating’s Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating’s actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. Naval Special Warfare reservists from a Combat Service Support unit attached to a West Coast-based Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team conducted a field training exercise based on principles from the expeditionary warfare community. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson/Released)

“Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight,” Mabus said.

The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.

The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy’s second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.

Mighty Moments

This Royal Marine threw himself on a grenade – and walked away with a nosebleed

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher’s dad says his boy is a “lucky man.” The Royal Marine was attached to 40 Commando Group in Afghanistan in 2008. On a night raid on a bomb maker’s compound in Sangin, he brushed a tripwire. The grenade sprung, then hit the ground. He shouted “grenade” and “tripwire” to warn the others – then he threw himself on top of it.


I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Croucher in Afghanistan

“The wire was tight against my leg, just under my knee” he told the Independent. “You know instinctively what it is, what it means. Then I heard the grenade drop, right next to me.”

He first dived on it face down, but realizing that wasn’t going to shield much of the blast, he quickly flipped over onto his back, covering the explosive with his full rucksack. He even had time to think of what was about to happen to him.

Then it exploded.

Croucher rucksack was ripped apart, his armor and helmet riddled with shrapnel and fragmentation, and his equipment began to burn “like a flare.” But that equipment is what saved his life. Doctors say he was extremely lucky to walk away with only a headache and nosebleed. The equipment cushioned him from the explosion. It took him a good 30 seconds to realize he wasn’t dead.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Croucher’s pack was torn to shreds.

The Royal Marine was awarded the George Cross for gallantry, an award on par with Britain’s Victoria Cross, except the George Cross is awarded when the enemy is not present during the act of valor. Queen Elizabeth II presented Lance Cpl. Croucher with the medal.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Her Majesty The Queen presents Matthew Croucher with his George Cross.

He later penned a memoir about his time in Sangin, called “Bulletproof.” In 2010, Britain’s Ministry of Defence threatened to seize all of Croucher’s earnings from the book, due to a law that prevents serving UK troops from writing books on their experiences – except Croucher is a reservist.

The Defence Ministry put Croucher under investigation, despite the Marine having received permission from his commanding officer. The MoD did an about face on the investigation within hours of journalists from the Daily Mail asking questions about it.

Follow Matthew Croucher, GC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

System Of A Down released their first new music in 15 years in response to the Artsakh War

Throughout the Global War on Terror, many an American convoy has rolled to the heavy metal music of bands like Black Sabbath, AC/DC, and System Of A Down. As songs like Fortunate Son, Paint it Black, and For What It’s Worth have become synonymous with the Vietnam War, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that songs like War Pigs, Highway to Hell, and Chop Suey will remind GWOT veterans of their time in country. System Of A Down in particular was extremely popular with service members in the early days of GWOT.

Formed in 1994, System consisted of Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and Andy Khachaturian who was later replaced by John Dolmayan in 1997. Originally playing under the band name Soil, System was derived from the name of a poem penned by Malakian titled Victims of a Down. “Victims” was changed to “System” in order to appeal to a wider audience and so that the band’s albums would be closer to their musical heroes, Slayer, on store shelves.

The band played an L.A. nightclub in 1995 and recorded a few demo tapes before their first official and professionally recorded song in 1997. The song, P.L.U.C.K., is an abbreviation for “Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers”, refers to the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. System then started playing more notable venues like the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and Viper Room and caught the attention of producer Rick Rubin. Rubin later signed the band to American/Columbia Records and the rest is history.

In 2006, it seemed like System itself was set to become history. The previous year saw the band’s last recordings with the double album Mezmerize/Hypnotize before their last performance in West Palm Beach, Florida on August 13, 2006. “Tonight will be the last show we play for a long time together,” Malakian said that night. “We’ll be back. We just don’t know when.”

True to their word, System returned from their hiatus in 2011 and began a world tour through North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. System’s popularity had not waned, with their only 2013 U.S. performance at the Hollywood Bowl selling out just a few hours after tickets went on sale. The next year, the band announced the Wake Up The Souls Tour to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The tour included their first performance in their ancestral home of Armenia in 2015. System played a free concert in Republic Square in Yerevan, the country’s capital, which was met with wide acclaim.

Though System has continued to tour and perform, the band had not recorded any new material since 2005. That all changed on November 5, 2020 with the release of Genocidal Humanoidz and Protect the Land, the band’s first new songs in 15 years. The songs were written in 2017 and 2018 respectively and are inspired by the conflict faced by the ethnic Armenian people of the Artsakh region. The disputed border region saw the return of skirmishes in July 2020 which prompted responses by both Azeri and Armenian people around the world. The skirmishes escalated into a full-blown war on the morning of September 27, 2020.

Known to Armenians and the ethnically-Armenian people who call it home as Artsakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. However, the people who inhabit the land view themselves as a self-determined independent state. The latest conflict sees Azerbaijan being backed by Turkey and fielding Syrian mercenaries as well as Israeli-supplied weapons systems like UASs. On the other side of the conflict, Artsakh Defense Forces are being augmented by Armenian Armed Forces as well as Armenian diaspora, communities of ethnic Armenians around the world which were largely formed by refugees of the Armenian Genocide.

Though a ceasefire brokered by Russia came into effect on October 10, conflict has continued. As of the writing of this article, Armenia has announced 1,177 servicemen killed and 21 captured. Azerbaijan has not released any of their official casualty figures, however, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported the deaths of 250 Syrian mercenaries. Both sides have reported civilian casualties and injuries totaling nearly 700. Additionally, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported some 40,000 Azerbaijani and 90,000 ethnic Armenians have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

In response to the war, System released their new songs to bring attention to the conflict that threatens their cultural homeland. Protect The Land was also released with its own music video depicting both diaspora Armenians and footage from the frontlines. “The time to do this is now, as together, the four of us have something extremely important to say as a unified voice,” reads the band’s statement on their website. “The music and lyrics speak for themselves. We need you to speak for Artsakh.”

The band is using their new music as a platform to raise funds through donations to the Aid for Artsakh Campaign under the Armenia Fund to provide aid to people who have been affected by the war. The band’s proceeds on purchases of the new songs are also going toward the Armenia Fund.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How battleship salvos worked in sea combat

There are no battleships left in active service. But they were once the kings of the seas, essentially sea dragons that could literally breathe fire. But these behemoths didn’t take shots in combat willy-nilly. They typically fired in salvos or partial salvos, with all or most of their guns firing at once. How come?


Salvo (Military Tactic)
www.youtube.com

Well, there are actually a lot of good reasons why battleships and other large artillery platforms typically fire all of their guns or a lot of them at once. This practice, known as a salvo, has different uses.

The most common and obvious reasons to fire all the guns at once is to knock out the enemy’s ability to make war as quickly as possible. Battleships are mobile platforms. That means that they are out of range of the enemy until, suddenly, they’re not. And if the ships are still closing or if the enemy has better range, then the battleship is in as much danger as the enemy.

But if the battleship fires all of its guns at once and manages to land a couple hits home, then the enemy ship will be forced to fight while crippled. Crucial manpower will be diverted to damage control, some guns could be knocked completely out of service, and there’s a chance that the engine or the bridge or another essential area could be destroyed.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
The USS Missouri fires a broadside.
(U.S. Navy)

If the battleship isn’t sure of exactly how far away the enemy ship is, it might fire partial salvos instead. This is when the ship fires a third or half of its guns at once to find the enemy range. While this can technically be done with single shots, it’s easy for the fire control officers to miss a round or two hitting the water in the chaos of combat. But if five or ten shells hit the water at once, the officer can definitely tell if the rounds landed far or short.

And salvos typically create a tighter spread of impacts than individually fired guns, so partial salvos to find range can be more accurate than firing individual guns.

But best of all against enemy ships, a salvo could be fired with guns aimed at different points, dropping shells both at the spot where the commanding officer thought the enemy ship would be as well as the point where it would most likely be if it attempted to maneuver away from the impacts. So, even if the rival ship attempts to escape, it’s still catching multiple shells in its decks.

But even against shore targets, firing in salvos can be good. That’s because taking out a bunker takes a near or direct hit, but bunkers have much less exposed area than an enemy ship does. Firing more guns gives a better chance of busting the bunker in one pass.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATCH: 87-year-old Marine on cruise recovers from COVID-19

As interviewer David Begnaud said, “The world is looking for some good news right now.”

This interview with 87-year-old Marine veteran Frank Eller who contracted COVID-19 on a cruise is it. Eller has emphysema, heart disease and all sorts of underlying medical conditions, but also the USMC in his blood.


I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Facebook photo/Frank Eller

Eller was feeling pretty rough a few days into a two week cruise when he finally went to the medical center on the third day of symptoms at his wife’s insistence. Barely able to breathe, Eller got a chest x-ray which revealed his lungs were filled with infection. The doctor started antibiotics and he was evacuated by the United States Coast Guard to a hospital in Puerto Rico, where he was finally administered a test for COVID-19.

Eller spent 25 years with the Marines and as you can see, is tough as nails with a great sense of humor and an awesome family.

87yo U.S. Marine survives #COVID19 after being evacuated from cruise ship & treated in Puerto Rico

www.youtube.com

87yo U.S. Marine survives #COVID19 after being evacuated from cruise ship & treated in Puerto Rico

Semper Fi!

Articles

Watch the Air Force launch an ICBM in mid-air from the back of a C-5

During the Cold War, the American nuclear deterrent strategy required coming up with ways to guarantee the survival of nuclear weapons if the Soviets managed a surprise first strike. The surviving devices would then be used to destroy Soviet civilization.


Keeping U.S. nukes out of Soviet crosshairs required a lot of imagination. The Americans had to keep the nukes deeply buried or constantly on the move. Then they had to make sure the surviving devices could be used effectively.

One such scheme was outfitting a full-size Minuteman III Inter-continental Ballistic Missile to fit in the back of a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft, dumping the nuke out the back and triggering the ICBM’s full ignition sequence.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
They’re really serious about nothing stopping the U.S. Air Force.

Minuteman III ICBMs carry multiple warheads bound for separate targets. This makes the Minuteman III the ideal missile for the mobile nuclear weapon strategy. At 60 feet long and 78,000 pounds, the missile is easily carried by the gargantuan aircraft.

The C-5 Galaxy’s maximum payload is an amazing 285,000 pounds and the aircraft itself is just under 248 feet long. With an operational range of 5,250 nautical miles, the C-5 can fly from Dover Air Force Base to the Middle East without having to refuel.

Launching a fully functional ICBM out the back of an aircraft inflight might sound crazy, but the Air Force first tested this concept successfully in 1974.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army family raises $42,000 for children in honor of son

While many children dislike being the middle child, Bryce Caldwell saw it as the best of both worlds.

He loved the attention of being younger and once he was thrust into the role of big brother, it sort of became his calling.

Right from when the Caldwell family’s third son was brought home from the hospital, Bryce adored and protected him.


“Bryce was always hovering over him, kissing him, hugging him,” said Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his father. “He was just so proud to be an older brother.”

Almost a year ago on Dec. 14, 2017, Bryce, a 6-year-old boy who not only loved his brothers but also football, died from a brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

A photo of the Caldwell family. Bryce Caldwell, lower left, had his wish come true when he visited the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.

Earlier that summer, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bryce visited Denver Broncos players and had the chance to play on a real football field with his brothers.

Although his life was short-lived, Bryce’s smile and personality often drew people to him.

“He would have this incredible light about him,” Jeremy said in a phone interview. “He was so warm and caring even at such a young age.”

Shortly after their son’s death, Jeremy’s wife, Suzy, found information on a 14-week hiking and fundraising challenge sponsored by the nonprofit organization.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Bryce Caldwell, left, takes a photograph with Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller during his wish trip to the Broncos headquarters in 2017.

(MakeAWish Foundation photo)

The culminating event was a 26.3-mile strenuous hike through the Talladega National Forest that is completed in one day.

With help from their friends, Will and Kate Searcy, the Caldwells were able to raise more than ,000 for the challenge — enough to grant five wishes from children with life-threatening illnesses.

For their efforts, the Caldwells were awarded the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award last at the nonprofit’s annual conference in Phoenix.

The Caldwells were left speechless when they found out they were considered for the award among the other nominees.

“We never expected when we went on this journey to get an award,” Jeremy said.

They also never expected to raise so much.

Dealing with the frustration and grief of losing a child, the Caldwells thought the challenge would help channel those emotions into something positive.

“It was a good way to focus all of that energy,” said Jeremy, who is currently a student at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base. He has also deployed to Iraq twice to fly UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

From left to right, Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his wife, Suzy, and their friends Kate and Will Searcy participate in a hiking challenge to raise more than ,000 for a non-profit foundation in memory of their son, who received a wish trip to visit the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.

Their initial goal was to raise ,500, the minimum pledge needed for one person to take part in the challenge.

But the outpouring of support they received from the local community and the military community across the world was much more.

“All I can say is that we are blessed we had so many good people behind us, lifting us up at such a difficult time in our lives,” Jeremy said.

After seeing their son’s joy during his wish trip to the Denver Broncos headquarters in June 2017, Jeremy and Suzy just wanted other families to have the same opportunity.

The trip provided some welcome relief from all the weight put on their shoulders at a time when they constantly worried about medications, doctor appointments and MRI scans.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, right, accepts the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award in October at the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s annual conference in Phoenix.

(MakeAWish Foundation photo)

“You can just focus on your family and enjoy the moment and the happiness that you see in your kid’s face,” he said. “That’s the incredible, almost healing, factor of these wish trips and that was an inspirational part of why we kept pushing to raise the amount of money that we did.”

The Caldwells have also raised nearly ,000 for another nonprofit that supports research to cure pediatric brain cancer like DIPG.

There are even plans to tackle the hiking challenge for a second time.

“I don’t know if we’ll get to the 40-something thousand dollars again, but maybe we’ll just focus on getting to one wish,” Jeremy said. “That’s the initial goal and we’ll see where it goes.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Maneuver Advisor Teams (MATs) from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) are creating their own legacy. As one of the first U.S. Army units purposefully built for advising, our MAT helped prove the advisor force structure concept. We were tasked with advising an Afghan Kandak (Battalion) during our deployment and now we are tasked with developing how best to train a team capable of advising partner nation security forces anywhere in the world. Our MAT captured our lessons learned and creatively applied them to our current training plan. Advising skills are developed and tested in the field, and here’s how they can translate into better preparation for our next employment.


SFABs were created to lessen the burden on the brigade combat teams for Security Force Assistance (SFA) missions. Small teams of advisors are not a new concept. The U.S. Army has been forming ad hoc advising elements from brigade combat teams and employing them in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. Maneuver Advisor Teams are different than the ad hoc teams. An SFAB has thirty-six MATs, specifically designed with 11 experienced non-commissioned officers with several different mission operational specialties and a post company command captain. MATs are the decisive element within an SFAB. Since the formation of SFABs, there is a new standard for how advising is conducted. With more preparation, additional resources, and a structured recruitment process, the pressure is high for the MATs to excel in advising operations.

Developing the plan

We knew we had to capitalize on our lessons from Afghanistan. Initially, our post-deployment training included similar tasks and events any regular Army unit would face after returning from a deployment. First and foremost we conducted reset of our equipment and began fielding new equipment. Much of our newly fielded communications equipment was unfamiliar.

Based on our experience in Afghanistan, we identified a requirement to maintain a focus on integrating communications training in anything we planned to do. Collectively we prioritized our training objectives and started planning our training. Following guidance from our higher headquarters, our team training objectives were to become master trainers of our warfighting functions, be capable of operating decentralized and expeditiously, and that we all must be capable of winning a fight.

Master trainers

Each advisor must be a master trainer of their specific skill set. To accomplish this, we began our training cycle with an emphasis on individual skill set enhancement. Individual skill set enhancement included additional schooling. For example, our infantrymen attended schools such as Pathfinder, Master Marksmanship Training Course, Infantry Mortar Leaders Course, and Heavy Weapons Leaders Course while our combat engineer attended Master Counter IED Trainer Course. We also conducted individual tasks such as weapons qualification and medical refresher training. Our individual skill set enhancement set the foundation to continue to build our team’s operating capability.

Refining technical and tactical skills provided us with individuals who were sound in their crafts, however as advisors, we needed individuals who could also teach and instruct their craft as well. All team personnel who attended a skill enhancement school were required to train the entire team in specific skills they learned. Not only did this requirement broaden the skill set across the team, it also provided our advisors with an opportunity to practice teaching their skills. As advisors, being a master of your warfighting function is good, being a master trainer of your warfighting function is required.

Decentralized and expeditiously

While advising our Afghan kandak, we identified the need to be capable of operating decentralized and expeditiously. During advising missions in Afghanistan, we found ourselves often separated from our higher headquarters and we were reliant on our mission command platforms to communicate them. The numerous types of mission command systems we owned, although overwhelming at first, became our greatest team strength. We could establish our command post and obtain communication on all of our platforms within minutes. While training, we established our command post with all of our systems during every event.

We planned, resourced, and executed an off-site training event several hundred miles away to practice our decentralized and expeditious capabilities. By taking the team to Camp Blanding, Florida for a 10-day field training exercise, we were able to conduct multiple ranges, land navigation training, and a team command post exercise utilizing our mission command systems. We successfully moved our equipment, established our systems, and communicated with our higher headquarters on multiple platforms for the duration of the training event.

Later in our training cycle, we planned, resourced, and executed a second off-site training event. We decided to treat this off-site training event less conventionally than our previous event. During this exercise we established our command post in a civilian hotel room to simulate operating out of a safe house. We conducted our movements as if we were operating out of a safe house in a foreign country. We wore civilian attire for the duration of the exercise and practiced multiple team tactics, techniques, and procedures to limit our interactions with the general public. We continued to learn from this experience and shared lessons learned with the rest of our unit. Without our persistent focus and practice with our mission command systems, we would not have gained the confidence required to operate in such a decentralized manner. Our team was confident we could operate decentralized from our higher headquarters and survive expeditiously if required.

Winning the fight

The entire team must be capable of fighting as a small element. Engaging in direct combat while accompanying our partners was unlikely during our next deployment, however training and being prepared to fight was non-negotiable. We aggressively attacked this skill set during our collective training. We executed two team live fire exercises during our training cycle and one force-on-force simulation round exercise. Many of our advisors had limited participation in any type of live fire exercise prior to joining the 1st SFAB. However, by the end of our training cycle, our logistic advisor and mechanic advisor were capable of planning and leading a mounted react to contact under live fire conditions.

Our culminating live fire exercise consisted of a three-event exercise utilizing three non-standard tactical vehicles. The scenario included our advising team returning to base after a day of advising their partners. The team encountered a non-hostile militia checkpoint, struck an IED rendering one vehicle disabled, and lastly, encountered a complex attack triggered by a second vehicle-disabling IED blast. During the complex attack, the team was forced to abandon disabled vehicles and strongpoint hard structures adjacent to the road. The team treated their casualties, communicated with their partners for assistance, and defended in place. This training event required the entire team to be capable of conducting individual skills and collective tasks during live fire conditions.

Throughout the year of training, our team became master trainers of their warfighting functions, we became experts in our mission command systems while operating decentralized and expeditiously, and we developed the tactical skills to fight in defense of each other and our partners.

Conclusion

The United States Army found the right people, gave them advanced equipment, and provided the best training. Nearly three years from inception, our MAT continues to build our legacy. Using our lessons learned and applying them to our training is setting a standard that should be used as the SFABs continue to mature and are employed around the world. While our first employment was in Afghanistan, the anticipated future of the SFABs will take them to nearly every Combatant Command area of operations. As the advising force structure matures, the breadth of talent and expertise afforded by these small units will continue to act as the decisive point for the SFABs now, and into the future.

MAJ Gerard Spinney is an Infantry officer in the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. He has multiple operational deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Inherent Resolve, and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the US Army or the Department of Defense.

MIGHTY TRENDING

All DoD branches will have role at US border

Troops from all the services will take part in the southern border buildup, either on duty to back up U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in the border states or serving as base support in other areas, according to U.S. Northern Command.

Base Support Installations chosen for Operation Faithful Patriot include Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca in Arizona; and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton; Naval Air Facility El Centro, Naval Base Coronado, Naval Base San Diego, and Naval Base Point Loma in California.


In Texas, the Base Support Installations will be Fort Bliss, Lackland Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Naval Operations Support Center Harlingen, and Naval Air Station Kingsville, NORTHCOM said in a statement.

Those bases will serve troops actually going to the border, who will be strictly limited to supporting CBP and will not have law enforcement authorities of detention or arrest in the event of the arrival of the “caravan” of migrants and political asylum seekers now heading north through Mexico.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers.

The NORTHCOM statement also identified units that have already been notified to deploy in support of CBP, but said the actual number of troops on the border will change daily with the flow of units.

NORTHCOM said the initial estimate is that about 7,000 total active-duty troops will deploy, in addition to the 2,000 National Guard troops who have been on the border since April 2018, although President Donald Trump said earlier at the White House that the number of troops could rise to as many as 15,000.

NORTHCOM said the units slated to deploy are:

From Fort Bragg, North Carolina:

  • Headquarters Command, 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment

Command

  • 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division
  • Headquarters Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade
  • 51st Medical Company, 28th Combat Support Hospital
  • 172nd Preventive Medicine
  • 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion
  • 329th Movement Control Team
  • 403rd Inland Cargo Transfer Company
  • Headquarters Detachment, 503rd Military Police Battalion

From Fort Carson, Colorado:

  • Headquarters Company, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
  • Headquarters Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support

Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

From Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado:

  • Joint Enabling Capability Team and Aviation Planner from U.S. Northern Command

From Scott Air Force Base, Illinois:

  • Joint Public Support Element — Public Affairs

From Fort Meade, Maryland:

  • 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera)

From Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia:

  • 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters, 3rd Infantry Division
  • 90th Human Resources Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade

From Joint Base San AntonioFort Sam Houston, Texas:

  • Defense Logistics Agency Contingency Contracting Team
  • 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Assessment Team
  • Headquarters Company, 505th Military Intelligence Brigade

From Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington:

  • 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, I Corps
  • 87th Engineer Sapper Company, 555th Engineer Brigade

From Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina:

  • 1st Combat Camera Squadron

From Fort Bliss, Texas:

  • 24th Press Camp Headquarters, 1st Armored Division

From Fort Hood, Texas:

  • 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps
  • Headquarters, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
  • 937th Engineer Sapper Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
  • 104th Engineer Construction, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
  • 289th Quartermaster Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1stCavalry Division Sustainment Brigade

From Fort Knox, Kentucky:

  • Headquarters Detachment, 19th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade
  • 15th Engineer Company (Horizontal), 19th Engineer Battalion
  • 541st Engineer Sapper Company, 19th Engineer Battalion

From Fort Campbell, Kentucky:

  • 887th Engineer Support Company, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
  • 372nd Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
  • 74th Transportation Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion,101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade

From Fort Riley, Kansas:

  • Headquarters Detachment, 97th Military Police Battalion, 1st Infantry Division
  • 977th Military Police Company Combat Support
  • 287th Military Police Company Combat Support
  • 41st Engineer Company (Clearance), 4th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade.

At a welcoming ceremony for South Korean officials at the Pentagon on Oct. 31, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the deployments are not unusual and should not be seen as other than routine military support occasionally provided for other federal agencies, according to a released pool report.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with the Minister of Defense for the Republic of Korea Jeong Kyeong-doo during the U.S. hosted 2018 Security Consultative Meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Oct. 31, 2018.

(DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita Lawrence)

He also rejected the charge that the border buildup is a “political stunt” by Trump to boost support for Republicans in the midterm elections.

“The support that we provide to the Secretary for Homeland Security is practical support based on the request from the Commissioner of Customs and Border police, so we don’t do stunts in this department,” Mattis said.

He likened Operation Faithful Patriot to the military assistance provided after hurricanes.

“We do this following storms, we do this in support of the Department of Homeland Security. This is a different aspect of it, but that’s what we are doing,” he said.

Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORTHCOM, gave the first indication that all services would be involved at the border at a gaggle with Pentagon reporters Oct. 30, 2018.

He said that “every airman, soldier, sailor, and Marine going there” would be fully trained for the mission at the border.

Citing an internal document, The Washington Post reported this week that the deployed force will include a special purpose Marine air-ground task force, among other elements.

However, a Marine Corps spokeswoman said earlier Oct. 31, 2018, that no specific Marine units had yet been tasked by NORTHCOM for the operation.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin just signed a law making it illegal to insult government officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.

People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.

Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.

Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”


People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”

Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.

Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.

But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.

British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”

Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”

Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”

“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.

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

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