USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Since its founding nearly 100 years ago, USAA has spearheaded countless initiatives for the military community. Today, the veteran-forward company announced their intent to give $30 million in support of military families through their Military Family Relief Initiative, the largest one-time philanthropic contribution in their storied history.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the world, the military community is not immune to the pandemic’s effects. USAA recognized the unique challenges faced by military families and made the decision to provide this money in hopes of supporting those who sacrifice so much for this country.


“Having served for nearly 32 years, I’ve seen the good and the bad,” Navy Vice Admiral James Syring (ret.), President of USAA Property and Casualty Group told WATM. “In tough times, it is really important for not only the military to step forward but other organizations. You know USAA’s mission and who we serve and what we do. This is to the heart of who we are. During these times of need is when we need to show up,” he said.

The 2019 Blue Star Families Survey revealed that financial issues remained the top stressor for military service members, spouses and veteran families. This stressor was high before the pandemic extended deployments, caused lost employment and increased isolation within the military community. As USAA watched the spread of COVID-19 and the increasingly negative impact it was having on military families, the company knew it had to act.

“This isn’t just for our members, it’s for the community. We are doing it because it’s our mission. It’s who we serve,” Syring explained.

From the Military Relief Initiative, million will be given directly to military relief societies. This includes Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, We Care for America Foundation and the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.

The million going directly to the relief societies will create both grants and zero interest loans for eligible service members and their families. It will target financial emergencies and costs associated with virtual schooling, among other things. The remaining million has been promised to nonprofit organizations serving veteran and military spouse employment needs, junior enlisted childcare fees, emotional support for children of service members and virtual schooling costs. To access the support, those eligible can go directly to their relief societies to begin the process.

“USAA has been a dedicated supporter of AER’s mission for many years and we are grateful to receive this latest grant, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.), Director of Army Emergency Relief, said. “This newly announced 2020 gift from the USAA team is another powerful demonstration of their commitment to America’s military members and their families. USAA is an incredibly generous partner and on behalf of Army families everywhere, we thank them for their support.”

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

USAA also wants to make it clear that they want the focus to be on the importance of supporting the military, especially during these challenging times. “We are doing this to help military families in need — that’s it. This isn’t about business or selling, it’s about doing our part to help the community that we serve,” Syring said.

The organization has also set up a donation fund for members that want to give to COVID-19 relief for military families. With every donation, USAA covers all administrative and merchant fees so that the entire donation goes to the nonprofits supporting military families.

Syring shared that USAA is creating an online platform for military families to share their stories and experiences through COVID-19. It is their hope that as those receiving help share their stories, it will open the door for more families to take that step to get help themselves. “It’s not in our nature in the military to raise a hand and say, ‘I need help.’ It’s always mission first, it’s ingrained in you.” Syring continued, “We want people to raise their hands.”

To apply for support, click here to access the web page USAA created linking those in need with their branch specific relief organizations.

MIGHTY MOVIES

You know you’re a vet when ‘Catch-22’ triggers you

One of my NCOs gave me a copy of Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22 as a promotion gift when I became a captain.

It was an ironic gesture, given that he was probably the person I commiserated with the most about ridiculous military rules. Now, George Clooney has directed a six-episode adaptation of the book so you can relive the blood-boiling insanity of active duty all over again.


Catch-22 Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original

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Watch the official ‘Catch-22’ trailer

The series centers on Christopher Abbott’s Captain John Yossarian, a World War II bombardier going crazy trying to stay alive while his commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler), tries to impress his superiors by continually increasing the number of missions his men must fly. Yossarian has already flown 50 and he wants out.

There’s a rule which allows pilots who are crazy to be grounded, but because being driven crazy by fear is fundamentally rational, he’s certified fit to fly. This is the titular catch-22 —and the reason everyone now knows the phrase.

In Heller’s words, “[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

The military’s response to logic.

Based on the jokes in the trailer, it looks like the series will attempt to capture Heller’s satirical commentary on the absurdity of war (especially when bureaucracies are involved) — and Heller wrote Catch-22 before the United States even became completely entrenched in asymmetrical war-fighting!

Any veteran, especially one who has served in combat or during wartime, can attest to the fact that military decision-making is often based on antiquated laws, procedures, and mindsets. While the United States has continued to maintain global military superiority thus far, we’re certainly not achieving our prime objectives so much as holding a defensive line — and we’re definitely not taking care of our service members the way we should (especially for the amount of money allotted in the defense budget).

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Been there, buddy.

I have a feeling the series will capture what it feels like to serve in a system that expects its troops to “shut up and color,” rather than fostering innovation, mental health, and, oh I don’t know, watering the grass with water instead of blood blood blood?

The TV adaptation debuts on Hulu on May 17, 2019, and also stars Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Giancarlo Giannini, and Daniel David Stewart.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you should know about the Tuskegee Airmen

The name rings bells. It’s got the glitz, having been the subject of two different Hollywood films complete with big-name Hollywood actors such as Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael B. Jordan, and Terrence Howard. That is wonderful and, I’m sure, absolutely appreciated by the surviving members and their family. There are some things that may not immediately pop out but are, nonetheless, extremely interesting.

The Tuskegee Airmen were one of the most accomplished groups of service members of any generation, but most can’t tell you why their name is so revered. Below are some of the most praiseworthy feats ever accomplished.


USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

One of the first defenders of the Tuskegee Airmen

(Image courtesy of OnThisDay.com)

Thurgood Marshall

Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall? Yes, that Thurgood Marshall. Before you go off saying he wasn’t a Tuskegee Airmen, you have to consider his tie to them. While he was a young lawyer, he represented 100 black officers who were charged with mutiny after entering a club that was then considered off-limits to them.

He would eventually get them all released.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

The photo that opened many doors.

(Image courtesy of RedTail.org)

Eleanor Roosevelt

The Tuskegee Airmen came to during an age of segregated America. While the Tuskegee Airmen, or the Tuskegee experiment as it was then known, was great it still lacked the prerequisite respect and support.

It wasn’t until a visit from FLOTUS Eleanor Roosevelt that support would begin to flow in. Photo and film from a flight around the field would be the push needed to get the support to really come in.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

(Image courtesy of AF.mil)

Generalmaker

Three different members, or graduates, of the Tuskegee experiment, went on to become Generals. The first was Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. He was the first commander of the 332nd Fighter Group and the first Black General of the U.S. Air Force.

Daniel “Chapple” James was appointed brigadier general by Richard Nixon and also went on to become a General. The last, Lucius Theus, would retire at the rank of Major General after a 36-year career.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Batting a thousand..

Perfect record

The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 700 bomber escort missions during World War II. They wound up being the only fighter group to achieve and maintain a perfect record protecting bombers.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

A restored P-51 Mustang, once flown by the late Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, iconic US Air Force fighter pilot, flew with 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons during an event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

The event included aerial maneuvers by the P-51, formation flight training with F-16s and a presentation about Robin’s accomplishments by his daughter, Christina Olds.

Robin was a triple-ace fighter pilot who had 16 kills by the end of his career. The P-51 that arrived to Spangdahlem, named SCAT VII, was Robin’s seventh airplane which he flew in the last days of World War II. It was restored and is still flying around Europe in the same color scheme it had nearly 75 years ago.


USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

SCAT VII, a P-51 Mustang, on the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, over Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why a ‘senior lance corporal’ is absolutely a thing

Lance corporal is the most common rank in the Marine Corps. It’s the upper-most junior-enlisted Marine; the last step before becoming an NCO. It’s at this rank that you truly learn the responsibilities that come with being an NCO — and it’s when you start to shoulder those responsibilities. But Marines can be lance corporals straight out of boot camp. But how can someone with no experience possibly be ready to lead others Marines? This is why we created an unofficial rank — “senior lance corporal.”

Lifers everywhere will tell you that there’s no such thing. They’ll say something along the lines of, “being a senior was a high school thing and it ought to remain there.” But the truth is that there are very valid reasons for the distinctive title.

No matter your reason for stating otherwise, one thing’s for sure: senior lance corporals exist. This is why.


USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

This Lance Corporal still has a lot to learn.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Catie Massey)

The “junior” lance corporal

The “junior” lance corporal is the guy who picked up rank during boot camp because they were an Eagle Scout or some sh*t. Regardless, they didn’t earn real Marine Corps experience while waiting for that rank. Hell, the only experience they have in the Marine Corps is with marching — which is important, sure, but there’s a lot more to being a Marine than marching.

There are exceptions, of course. You could have spent time in the service prior to deciding that whatever branch you were in was a group of weaklings compared to the Marines. In that case, you do have experience, but this is pretty rare. The majority of “junior” lance corporals haven’t led Marines yet — not really, anyway — nor have they been to any leadership courses.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

They spent a lot of time doing things by the book, which isn’t typically how things go in a real unit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

They spent their time learning the basics which, if we’re being honest, are great building blocks, but your unit’s standard operating procedure may render a lot of what you learned basically useless.

Anyone who’s reached NCO before their first term and has led Marines knows that you can’t trust a junior lance corporal to clean their room the right way on their first attempt. How could that lance corporal possibly be the same as the one who went through leadership and/or advanced schools and has a deployment under their belt? Hint: It’s not.

Enter the “senior” lance corporal.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

These guys have been around a minute.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The “senior” lance corporal

When a junior Marine gets to their unit, even if they’re a lance corporal, this is the guy they refer to as “lance corporal.” The junior will quickly come to understand that, while they may hold the same rank, they are not the same. The difference, in fact, is rather large.

A senior lance corporal has been on a deployment. Regardless of whether that deployment was into combat or not, that lance corporal has real leadership experience. They went to a foreign country and they were responsible for leading Marines to success. Then, before you got to the unit, they went to leadership schools. These Marines have a lot more experience than a greenhorn fresh out of boot camp.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

So ask yourself, are you treating your Marines a certain way based on experience — or rank?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Aaron Patterson)

Realistically, there are plenty of senior lance corporals that don’t give a f*ck anymore. But for every one of those, there are ten who strive to be good Marines and great leaders. To diminish their hard work and reduce them to the same level as some fresh boot does nothing but destroy their spirit.

The fact is, a “senior” lance corporal could be a squad leader — a job that is meant to be held by a sergeant, but is more commonly held by a corporal. You could not take a “junior” lance corporal and say the same. The difference is clear.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon prepares to extend southern border deployment

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told President Donald Trump on Jan. 2, 2019, that the military is planning border security enhancements, suggesting that the deployment of active- duty troops to backstop Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could be extended past the Jan. 31, 2019 deadline.

“We’re doing additional planning to strengthen the support that we’re providing to Kirstjen and her team,” Shanahan said in a reference to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.


“We’ve been very, very closely coupled with Kirstjen,” he said in brief remarks at a White House Cabinet meeting presided over by the president. “The collaboration has been seamless.”

Shanahan, seated next to Trump during the meeting, said the border troops are conducting daily operational training and focusing on the “restoration of fences,” as well as “building out additional mileage for the wall.”

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

In his only public remarks on his first full day as acting secretary, Shanahan said, “The Army Corps of Engineers is dialed in on doing this cost-effectively and with the right amount of urgency as to where we can build additional stand-up walls quickly and then get after the threat.

“The threat is real. The risks are real. We need to control our borders,” Shanahan said in remarks that echoed those of Trump on the need for border security enhancements, including major extensions of existing border walls.

Days before the November 2018 midterm elections, the military — on Trump’s orders — began deploying active-duty troops to southern border states to support CBP against a population of migrants streaming north, many of whom said they were seeking political asylum from violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

A total of 5,900 active-duty troops eventually were deployed to the border, according to U.S. Northern Command. The active-duty personnel were in addition to about 2,100 National Guard troops who had been on the border since April 2018.

The active-duty service members had an initial withdrawal date of Dec. 15, 2018. In early December, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the number of active-duty troops on the border would be reduced, but those remaining would have their deployments extended to at least Jan. 31, 2019.

In an informal session with Pentagon reporters in December 2018, Mattis estimated the cost of the active-duty deployment was about million through mid-December.

On Dec. 21, 2018, Northern Command said that about 2,600 active-duty troops remained on the border, including 1,200 in California, 700 in Arizona and 700 in Texas. Late December 2018, Pentagon officials speaking on background said it was unclear whether those troops would be extended past the Jan. 31, 2019 deadline.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Soldiers from various Engineering Units install concertina wire Nov. 5, 2018, in Texas.

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

The troops’ presence could also be affected by any proposed resolution to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 13th day.

Homeland Security is one of several departments whose appropriations were not passed in the last Congress, resulting in border patrol agents working without pay. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs both have their budgets fully funded and are not affected by the shutdown.

At Jan. 2, 2019’s Cabinet meeting, Trump praised the active-duty troops’ contribution to border security, and he was adamant that the government shutdown would continue until House and Senate Democrats agree to more funding for the wall.

“The military’s been fantastic. We’ve been working with Pat Shanahan. So much has been done. The Army Corps of Engineers has been fantastic,” Trump said. But he added that border security can’t be assured without the wall.

In areas where the wall has been erected, “nobody’s coming through,” Trump said.

“We want to finish it; we want to complete it. You can’t have a partial wall,” he said, because “people come through” the areas where the wall is absent.

In the areas where the wall is present, “you can’t get through unless you’re a world-class pole vaulter on the Olympic team,” Trump said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.

Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.

President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.


The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.

“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”

Feeding horses and shoveling manure

Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families
U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., June 28, 2007,
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.

Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.

The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.

Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.

Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.

The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.

The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.

Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when 200 insurgents attacked these 49 Americans

It would go on to be known as the Battle of Wanat, the most costly single engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan to that point. Nine U.S. soldiers would make the ultimate sacrifice alongside another 31 U.S. and Afghan troops who were injured. But their defense allowed 46 paratroopers, three Marines, and their Afghan allies to hold against a coordinated attack by over 200 insurgents.


(Writer’s note: This article contains descriptions of real-world violence and there is a video embedded that shows attack helicopters firing on insurgents on the burning outpost. Obviously, viewer/reader discretion is advised.)

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

View of the 120mm mortar at COP Kahler days before the Battle of Wanat.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Queck)

The attack on the U.S. forces near Wanat in Afghanistan centered on Kahler, a combat outpost in the area. COP Kahler was a strong position, but it faced a number of defensive weaknesses. First, it wasn’t the high ground in the valley. That’s a compromise military leaders sometimes have to make, but you really don’t want to have to defend a position where an enemy can fire on it from above.

Another problem was that civilian buildings came close to the outpost. This included a mosque that the attackers would misuse as a fortress to get an advantageous position against the defenders.

Finally, and probably most importantly, COP Kahler was not yet done. Engineers had been working for weeks to prepare for construction, but the actual building only began on July 9, four days before the attack would come. And a number of important defensive measures wouldn’t be complete for weeks or potentially months.

Some of the defensive positions on July 13 were still just concertina wire and guns, though some positions were protected by boulders, HESCOs, or hasty earthworks. The task force had planned for the possibility that an attack would come early, while the outpost was still vulnerable. But the intelligence estimates did not anticipate an attack by hundreds, and the assets at the base didn’t either.

But Chosen Company of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was holding and building Kahler, and they had prepared well for an attack with what they had.

The defenders’ TOW missile launcher was mounted on a HMMWV that could be driven around the site, but a platform was quickly built to give it better fields of view and fire. And there were two mortars, a 120mm and a 60mm, to provide additional muscle.

And the Americans had built observation posts in the territory around the outpost. These would allow American forces to inflict casualties from higher ground, but it would also deny the enemy a chance to occupy those three positions, meaning that was three fewer positions the insurgents could attack from.

And the engineers were busy from July 9 to 13, filling as many HESCOs and digging out as many fighting positions as they could. They were able to provide significant protection to the 120mm and many fighting positions before the attacks came. The 60mm mortar had a pit and a few sandbags, providing some protection. (Some of the defenses and fighting can be seen in this video.)

There were signs in the buildup to the attack that it was coming. Men in the nearby bazaar were seen watching the Americans and seemingly doing pace counts to figure out distances. The number of children in the village slowly dropped, and Afghan contractors refused to bid on some services for the base.

So when Capt. Matthew Myer saw five shepherds traveling together near the base he immediately prepared for a complex attack, using his TOW and mortars to hit the men shifting around the base. Five shepherds will rarely travel together because that many shepherds signals that there are either too many shepherds or too many goats in one area for normal grazing.

But before Myer could give the order to attack, two bursts of machine gun fire signaled the enemy forces, and then a rain of rockets came onto the U.S. warriors. The Battle of Wanat was on, and the enemy had seized the initiative.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

A Army graphic shows the defenses at COP Kahler during the Battle of Wanat. Notice OP Topside which is physically separated from the rest of the defenses. The hotel and mosque were key buildings controlled by insurgents during the battle.

(U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute)

That first volley came in the first hours of July 13, and it contained a very large amount of RPGs. While the Army history of the battle gives no official number to the rockets that hit the base, quotes from the men who fought in the battle described an absolute rain of rockets that left dozens and dozens of tail fins on the ground around the Americans. A radiotelephone operator later said that the “RPG fire was like machine gun fire.”

The insurgent forces had sneaked up close to the outpost and unleashed hell, and the volume of fire indicated that there had either been a major buildup of rockets at these positions or else runners were keeping the shooters well supplied. This rain of explosions took the TOW launcher out of the fight and suppressed a mortar and some machine guns and grenade launchers.

Myers and his men were suddenly struggling to achieve fire superiority. The mortar crew got at least four high-explosive rounds off despite the incoming fire, but were driven back from the weapon by the RPGs and machine gun fire. Rounds were flying in from buildings and trees near the outpost, and the fire was concentrated on the mortarmen.

But they weren’t the only ones in trouble. Another main objective of the enemy force was cutting one of the observation posts, OP Topside, off from the main force. While the OPs provided protection to the COP, they would also be vulnerable to enemy attack until the engineers were done clearing vegetation from the fields of fire.

A mortar crewman was injured by an RPG, and then another was hurt while dragging the first casualty to safety at the command post. The TOW launcher and HMMWV exploded, and it injured an Afghan soldier, knocked out some American communications equipment, and dropped two unexploded but unstable missiles back onto the defenders.

The artillery assets supporting the outpost sent death back at the attackers whenever they could, but they were firing 155mm howitzers at high angle. Danger close starts at just over 700 yards, and anything closer than 600 yards in rough terrain is simply too risky to fire. The automatic grenade launchers on the base had a similar problem.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Defenders at Kahler the day before the Battle of Wanat.

(U.S. Army soldiers)

The weapons that were available were fired at such a high rate that many of them began to overheat, and then the only .50-cal went down after an enemy round struck it in the feed tray cover.

But the worst of the fighting for the Americans took place at OP Topside. Only nine Americans were there at the start of the fighting, and the insurgent activity made reinforcing them a dangerous and tricky task, though the paratroopers would do so successfully multiple times.

The OP had its own artillery observer, but he was wounded in that first RPG volley. A paratrooper at Topside was killed in that same volley, and another died just moments later while attempting to throw a grenade. Another was wounded so badly that he could not fight.

The six men able to fight, including the forward observer, were forced to work through their own injuries and beat back the attack. Fortunately, the observer had sent a list of pre-planned targets back to the gun lines days before, and so artillery was able to send some assistance despite the fact that the observer could not conduct the calls for fire.

The defenders attempted to get the upper hand, but their own crew-served weapons went down from overheating or ammo shortages, and then one gunner was killed while firing his M4.

Finally, reinforcements from the main COP moved out. But the three-man team lost one soldier en route to a wound in the arm. Soon after they arrived, the enemy made it through the wire.

The attack was repulsed, but the two reinforcements were killed, and so was another soldier. A short time later, a sergeant moved forward to suppress fighters in a nearby building and was killed. Only one soldier was left in fighting shape with another three seriously wounded.

The defender managed to take out an enemy position with a light anti-tank weapon, giving most of the survivors just enough time to fall back to another position. But in their haste, they missed that the forward observer was severely wounded but still alive.

This artilleryman grabbed a grenade launcher and fired every round he had and threw every hand grenade he could reach. Just before he was forced to make a last stand at the OP, four men from the COP reinforced him, and Topside remained in American hands.

But a new attack, once again led by RPGs, strained this control. Every paratrooper on the OP was wounded, and one would die soon after. A platoon sergeant gathered a new force of seven paratroopers and two Marines and once again reinforced the OP, arriving shortly before the Apache attack helicopters.

Gun runs by the helicopters with their 30mm cannons finally drove the attackers back and allowed this larger force to protect the OP. Another platoon from Chosen Company arrived to help out their brothers-in-arms. This force brought multiple machine guns and two automatic grenade launchers with them on HMMWVs as well as multiple anti-tank rocket launchers.

The quick reaction force assaulted into the bazaar, driving the enemy from nearby buildings while suppressing other positions with the trucks. QRF fighters threw out smoke to mark insurgent positions and the Apaches eliminated them. Slowly, the volley of RPG fire lessened and, four hours after the attack began, the terrorist forces finally began to retreat.

Medical evacuation crews landed under fire to get the wounded out, in at least one case evacuating a casualty while an Apache made a gun run just 30 yards away. This limited American losses to the nine paratroopers already killed. A massive surge in U.S. and Afghan forces occurred July 13 with Afghan commandos coming in to clear the nearby village house-to-house and gain intelligence.

The biggest surprise for the Afghan commandos came when they searched the Afghan National Police station near the compound. A massive cache of weapons was there with most of them having been recently fired. But the evidence was that they had fired in support of the insurgents, not against them. The police chief and others were arrested.

Over the following days, American air assets pummeled insurgent positions, and future Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley set up operations in Wanat. An estimated 20-50 enemy fighters were killed in the fighting.

Despite the hard-won tactical success, senior leaders decided that holding Wanat was simply too costly and drained resources from more fruitful fights elsewhere. Chosen Company was pulled out.

popular

6 wild facts about the deadly creator of SEAL Team Six

These days, Richard Marcinko is a business instructor, author, and motivational speaker. In his earlier years, “Demo Dick” was the United States’ premier counterterrorism operator. Marcinko enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1958 and eventually worked his way up to the rank of commander, graduated with degrees in international relations and political science, and earned 34 medals and citations, including a Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and four Bronze Stars. But that’s just his military resume.

Even among the ranks of American special operators, Marcinko, his record, and his reputation are all exceptional — and it’s easy to see why. At 77, he is still training business executives as well as U.S. and foreign hostage rescue teams. He even worked as a consultant on the FOX television show 24. His memoir, Rogue Warrior, is a New York Times bestseller.

“I’m good at war,” Marcinko once told People Magazine. “Even in Vietnam, the system kept me from hunting and killing as many of the enemy as I would have liked.”


1. North Vietnam had a bounty on his head

As a platoon leader in Vietnam, Marcinko and his SEALs were so successful, the North Vietnamese Army took notice. His assault on Ilo Ilo Island was called the most successful SEAL operation in the Mekong Delta. During his second tour, Marcinko and SEAL Team Two teamed up with Army Special Forces during the Tet Offensive at Chau Doc. The SEALs rescued hospital personnel caught in the crossfire as an all-out urban brawl raged around them.

Because of Marcinko’s daring and success, the NVA placed a 50,000 piastre bounty on his head, payable to anyone who could prove they killed the SEAL leader. Obviously, they never paid out that bounty.

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(US Navy)

2. He was rejected by the Marine Corps

Marcinko joined the military at 18 but, surprisingly (to some), he didn’t first opt to join the Navy. His first stop was the Marine Corps, who rejected him outright because he did not graduate from high school. So Marcinko, who would leave as a Commander, enlisted in the Navy. He later became an officer after graduating from the Navy’s postgraduate school, earning his commission in 1965.

3. He designed the Navy’s counterterrorism operation

You know you’ve made it when they make a video game about your life story.

After the tragic failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the U.S. attempt to free hostages being held by students in Iran, the U.S. Navy and its special operations structure decided that they needed an overhaul. Marcinko was one of those who helped design the new system. His answer was the creation of SEAL Team Six.

4. He numbered his SEAL Team “Six” to fool the Russians

When he was creating the newest SEAL Team, the United States and Soviet Union were locked in the Cold War — and spies were everywhere. Not trusting that anyone would keep the creation of his new unit a secret, he numbered it SEAL Team Six in order fool the KGB into believing there were three more SEAL Teams they didn’t know about.

5. His job was to infiltrate bases — American bases

The Navy needed to know where their operational sensitivities were — where they were weakest. Even in the areas where security was thought tightest, the Navy was desperate to know if they could be infiltrated. So, Vice Admiral James Lyons tasked Marcinko to create another unit.

Marcinko created Naval Security Coordination Team OP-06D, also known as Red Cell, a unit of 13 men. Twelve came from SEAL Team Six and the other from Marine Force Recon. They were to break into secure areas, nuclear submarines, Navy ships, and even Air Force One. Red Cell was able to infiltrate and leave without any notice. The reason? Military personnel on duty were replaced by civilian contractor security guards.

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Just like the A-Team, except real. And Marcinko is in command. And he’s the only one. And he killed a lot more people. (NBC Universal Television)

 

6. He spent 15 months in jail

Toward the end of his career, he was embroiled in what the Navy termed a “kickback scandal,” alleging that Marcinko conspired with an Arizona arms dealer to receive $100,000 for securing a government contract for hand grenades. Marcinko maintained that this charge was the result of a witch hunt, blowback for exposing so many vulnerabilities and embarrassing the Navy’s highest ranking officers. He served 15 months of a 21-month sentence.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli and US troops will train to defend Israel from a massive attack

The United States and Israel are putting on a large-scale joint exercise — one with high stakes in the Middle East. Right now, the two countries are rehearsing defense against a ballistic missile attack.


According to a report by the Jewish Press, Juniper Cobra, an exercise held every two years, is underway. This time, the exercise is simulating a massive, two-front attack against Israel, which, historically, has been no stranger to hostile ballistic missiles landing in its territory.

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families
Heavy damage and rubble from an Iraqi Scud Missile hit on Uziel Street in Ramat Gan, a Tel Aviv neighborhood filled with Israelis of Iraqi descent. (Photo from National Photo Collection of Israel)

During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein launched dozens of modified SS-1 “Scud” missiles at Israel. A total of 39 missiles landed on Israeli territory, causing two deaths and substantial property damage. That number would have been higher had the United States not deployed batteries of MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Israel.

Even now, the threat still exists. Last month, Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad threatened to launch missiles at Israel if there was another strike at Damascus. Israel carried out a major strike last April, targeting a weapons dump. Hezbollah also reportedly has a lot of missiles as well. The Iranian-sponsored terrorist group has routinely fired rockets into Israel.

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A missile from the Israeli Iron Dome, launched during the Operation Pillar of Defense to intercept a missile coming from the Gaza strip. (Israeli Ministry of Defense photo)

As a response to the constant attacks, the Israeli Defense Forces has deployed the Iron Dome system to shoot down such rockets from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. They’re also deploying the Arrow, a ballistic-missile defense system that scored its first kill last March against a Syrian SA-5 Gammon.

The stakes for this exercise are high and have increased as tensions mount over Israeli allegations of Iranian actions in Syria and Lebanon. Iranian leaders have vowed in the past to wipe Israel off the map. An American missile-defense test in Hawaii ended in failure when a RIM-161 Standard SM-3 Block IIA missile missed a target late last month. Let’s hope this exercise proves to be more successful.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

Venezuela’s government has been in a state of constant unrest as opposition leaders, especially Juan Guaidó, have accused Nicolás Maduro of rigging elections, mismanaging the government, and causing the starvation of the Venezuelan people. Now, Guaidó has emerged from hiding and is attempting to rally military and civilian support in an apparent uprising.


There’s a lot at stake, and the result of this uprising will determine the state of great power competition in America’s backyard. People on both sides are already dying from gunfire and vehicle charges from government forces.

As most journalists take this time to report on the minute-by-minute developments (the AFP news agency has a lot of quick facts and quotes as the situation develops, CNN International is posting amazing photos, and the overall Twitter stream has a mix of everything), we thought we would take a moment to remind everyone what the stakes are, here.

Venezuela is a socialist country, but, more accurately, it’s a dictatorship with a socialist system. That means that the government has direct control of significant parts of the economy, and that the government is controlled by one person. Right now, that’s Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has used short-term strategies to hop from one crisis to another since taking power.

Maduro and Guaidó have clashed for more than a year about whether or not Maduro rigged elections in his own favor. And the clashes between their supporters have become increasingly violent, but Maduro has always held the advantage because the military was largely on his side. But today, Guaidó appeared in a video saying that he has military support and is using it to trigger an uprising.

This is tragic for the Venezuelan people. Regardless of who wins, the violence will likely result in the deaths of at least dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds more. But it will also decide the balance of power in Venezuela, and Maduro and Guaidó have very different international backers.

Guaidó has the support of the U.S., U.K., and other Western powers. But Maduro is one of Vladimir Putin’s most important allies in the Western hemisphere.

That’s not because Russia and Venezuela are especially close. They’re not. But Venezuela, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Maduro, has historically been a socialist thorn in America’s side. And Putin knows that he needs friends in this hemisphere if he ever wants to directly pressure Washington like Stalin was able to during the Cold War.

He has few natural allies in this hemisphere, especially as Fidel Castro has died and Raúl Castro has grown old in Cuba. Raúl has stepped down as president and is 87.

Putin showed his support for Maduro last year by deploying two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela and sending heavy investments of Russian money into the Venezuelan oil industry. That second action is larger than it sounds: Russia and Venezuela are both heavy oil exporters that need the money to fuel their economies. Russian money that supports Venezuelan oil sales necessarily cuts into Russian profits.

But the foreign policy stakes were too high in Venezuela for Putin to ignore. Russia wants influence in the west, and Venezuela is one of its few toeholds. As then-U.S. Southern Command Commanding General John Kelly said in 2015:

Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President [Vladimir] Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War-tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Those actions in Venezuela have not always produced great fruit, but Venezuela is a resource-rich country that’s leadership leans towards Putin.

Meanwhile, America has historically supported true democracies, preferably capitalist ones, in South America for obvious reasons. A capitalist democracy would necessarily share more values with the U.S. than Venezuela did under Chavez or Maduro. And the Trump administration has signaled its support for the April 30 uprising. Not a big surprise since Vice President Michael Pence also recorded a video in January supporting Venezuelan opposition and Guaidó.

And, for what it’s worth, those Russian nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela have the range to bomb any point in the U.S. without refueling including Alaska and Hawaii. (But, if they’re landing in Venezuela on the same tank of gas, they would be unable to hit much of Idaho, Nevada, or California.)

So this coup in Venezuela will decide the balance of power in America’s backyard. Russia has already said that Putin has met with his top generals to discuss the situation, though there is no sign yet of the large military deployments they sent to Syria to prop up his boy there.

While all of us should care about the crisis because of the real human suffering under Maduro, who are now caught in the crossfire, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this is strictly a foreign problem. The effects of the uprising attempt will be felt here.

MIGHTY GAMING

How Blizzard is putting the ‘war’ back in Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft is still going strong after nearly 14 years of being at the top of the video game world. One of the ways that Blizzard has maintained such success is by releasing a constant stream of new content for subscribers to enjoy. This trend continues with next week’s release of the game’s seventh expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.

This time around, instead of focusing on fighting some giant, world-ending bad guy, the developers are taking a different approach and are returning to what made the game so beloved: the faction-based conflict between the Alliance of humans, dwarves, and night elves and the Horde of orcs, trolls, and undead.


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Players had little idea that a simple choice between left side or right side would mean so much fourteen years down the road.

(Blizzard Entertainment)

The game has always drawn players in by carefully scaling a character’s level of badassery with the amount of time spent playing. Couple this enrapturing, eventual rise to power with the ever-looming threat of attack by the opposing faction and you’ve got a recipe for player investment. When players are invested in the game, they start to care about the world — and its well-being.

The last expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion, saw players putting an end to the series’ primary antagonist, Sargeras. The fight against such a massive threat required that the Horde and Alliance mend bad blood and work together (mostly) to fend off a universal danger.

With the major threats quelled, players are rejoicing as opposing factions can finally go back to killing each other — and things have started off with a bang. As a lead-up to the expansion’s release, the Horde burnt down the capital city of the night elves, Darnassus. In return, the Alliance laid siege to the undead capital, The Undercity.

Right now, players are taking part in said attacks, storming the battlefield as either the defenders or the attackers, depending on which faction you chose when making your character — an event that, for some, happened nearly 14 years ago.

The Alliance-versus-Horde aspect of the game has long been a fan favorite. A huge section of player base has always taken their faction identity to heart. In the older days of World of Warcraft, if you made an Alliance character on a server, that was it. If you wanted to try life on the Horde, you had to pick a new server and start all over.

Back in 2004, it wasn’t uncommon for a group of friends to be split over something as simple as deciding to play as a dwarf or a troll because it meant they couldn’t play together. These restrictions have since been loosened and many players have characters on both factions — but they’ll remain fiercely loyal to their first, arbitrary choice.

This is actually the heart of what makes the advertisements for the new expansion so funny. Moments like the one in the video below really do happen between World of Warcraft players.

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​My excuse is going to be “massive diarrhea to the point that I’d rather not risk seeing a doc.”

(Blizzard Entertainment)

It kind of goes without saying that the next expansion is heavily based on player-versus-player interactions. Players are highly encouraged to fight with their faction against their enemy and are given some pretty sweet in-game rewards for doing so. Ambush unsuspecting foes while they’re out exploring or take part in skirmishes in designated battlegrounds in the pursuit of honor — ‘honor’ here means both for the love of your faction and for literal ‘honor points.’

New to the expansion is the introduction of Warfronts, massive battlefields for which players fight to control. Victory means capturing a city that their faction retains until the next battle. There are also plenty of new zones filled brim with quests tailored specifically for your faction to help you reach the new max level, getting you ready to join the fight.

So, get ready to fight for your faction’s pride on Tuesday. Or, if you don’t play, get ready for some of your nerdy friends to sick call for a “totally valid” reason early next week.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Lockheed Martin actually bottled the ‘smell of space’ for April Fools Day

Lockheed Martin, a major US defense contractor, has bottled the smell of space, purportedly creating “a scent that transcends our planet and brings the essence of space down to Earth.”

The new scent “blends metallic notes to create a clean scent with a sterile feel, balanced by subtle, fiery undertones that burn off like vapor in the atmosphere,” the company explained on its website, adding that now “men, women and children everywhere [can] smell like they’re floating through the cosmos.”


Vector by Lockheed Martin

www.youtube.com

Vector, “the preferred fragrance for tomorrow’s explorers,” was announced just in time for April Fools’ Day and is the company’s first foray into the holiday.

You won’t be seeing this strange new fragrance at your local department store, but the scent does exist, a Lockheed Martin spokesman told Business Insider.

In the remarkably high-quality video Lockheed produced for its big April Fools’ Day prank, Tony Antonelli, a retired NASA astronaut who now leads the Orion spacecraft mission, describes his first encounter with the smell of space.

Vector: An Origin Story

www.youtube.com

While working on the assembly of the international space station, he opened the hatch for a group of astronauts who had just completed a spacewalk, and it was then that he discovered that space actually has a smell.

“I was completely blown away. After over a decade of training, no one had told me that space smells,” Antonelli says in the video.

“The smell was strong and unique, nothing like anything I had ever smelled on Earth before,” he said, describing the scent as “some kind of metallic mixture of other things that I just didn’t know how to describe.”

That part of the story is actually true, Alex Walker, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Space, told Business Insider.

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A sample of Vector.

(Lockheed Martin Space)

Antonelli may have never made it his mission to recreate and bottle the scent — basically the smell of burnt metal — for public consumption, as the video claims, but, with his help, Lockheed did manage to develop a scent similar to what Antonelli encountered.

“We actually developed fragrance samples based on Tony’s guidance,” Walker said. “His whole story of the smell of space, we took his guidance down to a local perfumery in Denver and bottled it.”

The company created three different scents, and then Lockheed excitedly determined which one most closely matched the smell described by the former Space Shuttle pilot.

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Inside the Vector sample’s packaging.

(Lockheed Martin)

“It’s like one of those fragrance samples you’d get at the mall,” Walker said, adding that the company produced roughly 2,000 sample bottles to hand out at next week’s Space Symposium in Colorado.

So Lockheed successfully bottled the so-called “smell of space,” an unbelievable feat done as part of a very elaborate joke.

“The reason we did this was to remind that the men and women of Lockheed Martin Space have been building spacecraft for more than sixty years,” Walker told Business Insider.

“We thought it was a great time to remind people of that. It is a reminder of unmatched expertise in the space industry, but also, it’s a reminder that we’re humans.”

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

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