Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”
So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.” Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.
Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.
The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.
Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.
Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.
Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.
The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.
That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.
However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.
It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.
I held on to my son until it was time for him to go. My heart felt empty as he walked through the departure gates on his way to Army Basic Combat Training (BCT.)
Although I was happy for him as he left to live his lifelong dream of serving our great nation, I felt lost with an emptiness that filled my heart. Despite the tears that streamed down my face, I was proud to see my son started his journey with strength and determination.
It’s far from easy to watch as your child embarks on a journey aimed at transforming them from civilian to soldier; where you won’t hear from them and don’t know what they’re doing.
As your child goes on this journey, you go on a journey too.
You may not have planned for this or even wanted it, and yet here you are, transitioning to becoming the parent of a soldier.
Parenting changes in unexpected ways when your child joins the army. Instead of feeling stranded in a place of sadness, let your child’s hard work, dedication, and patriotism, inspire you to be your best. Here are some ways that parenting changes when your child joins the army.
Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart/Released
1. You’re no longer in control.
Parenting never stops, but when your child joins the army a new set of challenges emerges. After spending 18+ years preparing them for life and protecting them, a parental shift happens.
One day they’re home with you, the next day they’re thousands of miles away with little communication.
The casual calls, endless chore reminders, and days spent together are sweet memories of another season of life.
Take a step back and realize how your role is different now. Instead of taking the wheel for them, your role may be to just be there for them, to support their decision to join the Army or to help keep them moving forward.
You may not hear from your Soldier as often as you like but that’s part of your new normal.
Instead of resisting it, lean into it. It can be truly wonderful if you let it. Just think: you raised a child with the passion, courage, and grit to do one of the most important jobs in our nation. Make sure your child knows that you have confidence in them as a soldier and defender of freedom.
Transition takes great effort and doesn’t happen overnight. Know how you are changing as a parent. Put your feelings to paper where you can look back in a few months or a year and see how far you’ve come on this incredible military parenting journey.
Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret
2. You learn resilience.
Awful thoughts will undoubtedly run rampant through your mind. At some point, your Soldier will transition from BCT to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or may deploy somewhere in the world.
I wasn’t as excited as my son when he deployed; he thought of it all as a big adventure while I cringed at the thought of him flying high in his helicopter over the Afghanistan Mountains.
Holding on to his enthusiasm through my range of emotions, and looking at this as an adventure was my first step to building resilience.
Embracing change and learning to adapt as a parent of a Soldier is one way to build resilience and manage your emotions. Resilience gives you the ability to cope with stressful situations (there will be some) and carry on with your life. You can’t change the fact that your child is now a Soldier, one of the few who chose to defend our country. Nor can you change where they go next. But you can learn resilience, become more confident in your ability to deal with tough emotions, and find joy in your journey.
Photo courtesy of 2nd Cavalry Regiment
3. You find new ways to enjoy the holidays.
Christmas brings with it sweet memories, family gatherings, and lots of food. It’s always a happy occasion, except for that first year my son joined the Army. He would be celebrating at his first duty station in Germany, while we all missed him terribly at home.
In subsequent years, we found new ways to celebrate. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas tree, gifts, and holiday decorations in the middle of November or birthdays celebrated a month before or after the event.
Don’t forget technology, which creates new ways to enjoy your Soldier. You can engage with your loved one, whether it’s a text message, phone call, or video and open up communications in a positive way.
Is it the day that is more important or the gathering of loved ones to celebrate events? Learning to enjoy celebrations on days other than the event is a unique way to celebrate. After all, any time you can gather with your Soldier is time for celebration!
4. Oh, the places you’ll go.
That first 9 weeks of basic training seemed like forever. With over 2,000 miles between us, how would I ever see my son? As the years passed, the miles expanded as his duty stations took him to Germany, South Korea, and far-flung states.
Let the adventure begin! With passport in hand, I visited my Soldier son in every country and state he lived in. We traveled through Europe and had a grand time experiencing new places and cultures.
Keep an open mind about the places you can visit and explore with your Soldier. The best part is your child can be your tour guide as you trek off together with enthusiasm and curiosity, creating new grown-up memories.
Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart
5. You see your child in a different light.
When my son left for basic training, I clung to our past relationship where I was the mom and protector. Clearly that wasn’t going to work.
As time progressed, it dawned on me one day that my son is a Soldier. He spoke to me about his passion for defending our freedoms and how much it meant to him. As I slowly began to understand him as a grown man and Soldier, I began to see, appreciate, and respect this side of him.
You may not realize it but your Army Soldier is a skilled and highly-trained warrior, ready to defend our nation on a moment’s notice. That’s a lot to take in but it’s true.
No matter how much you want your child to be five years old again, they’re not. They left their childhood behind and went out into the world armed with all the loving ingredients you instilled in them. When you look at them as grown-up, you give way for a new relationship to blossom—one that includes the sweet memories of yesteryear and new adventures of today.
Throughout a successful 15-year Army career, my son’s story isn’t finished and neither is mine. Every “see ya later” hug at an airport is another building block towards mental toughness and staying ready for the changes ahead (and there will be many.)
When your child joins the Army, your parent-child relationship adapts and grows as both your lives change over the years. I wouldn’t change a thing about being the mom of my Soldier son. From the people I’ve met, to the things I’ve learned, and the places I’ve been, this army mom life has been amazing.
You control your journey or your journey controls you. Enjoy the adventure!
Remember that scene in Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he’ll “hit the brakes” and the instructor pursuing him in an A-4 Skyhawk will just fly right by? Braking sharply, while in-flight, is indeed a tactic that can be utilized by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat, but no aircraft could ever do it quite as well as the venerable Harrier jumpjet. The technique was known as “VIFF”.
The Harrier, originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, and later, British Aerospace Systems (BAe), could achieve vertical flight by vectoring four large nozzles straight down towards the ground. The nozzles would vent exhaust at full thrust from the Harrier’s powerful main Pegasus engine, allowing the aircraft to hover, lift off the ground and land like a helicopter.
This carved out a brand new niche for the Harrier that wasn’t really challenged at all until the recent F-35B Lightning II: it could literally fly and land anywhere and everywhere. The Harrier could be launched from highways and unimproved fields and grass strips, or could be deployed to sea aboard small aircraft carriers, or even re-purposed cargo vessels.
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, which operated the navalized version of the jumpjet – the Sea Harrier – was enthusiastic about using the aircraft on deployments aboard light aircraft carriers, especially the HMS Invincible (R05). The problem with the Harrier/Sea Harrier was the fact that the aircraft was almost entirely geared towards the strike mission (i.e. flying air-to-ground attacks) while the air-to-air role was more of an afterthought that wasn’t really accounted for. The Royal Air Force’s land-based Harrier, the GR.3, would typically require a flight of more capable air superiority fighters to fly top cover, or to clear the airspace ahead of them, lest they be engaged and taken out of the fight. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, took a different approach.
The Sea Harrier, more commonly known as the “Shar”, was revamped to allow for it to assume both the ground attack, reconnaissance and fighter roles, giving the air wings assigned to the Invincible (and later, the HMS Hermes) a more diverse spread of available capabilities while in-theater (i.e. in the area of operation). The Shar could fly with AIM-9 Sidewiders short-range air-to-air missiles on under-wing pylons, and was equipped with ADEN 30mm cannons to be used for strafing land-based targets or attacking enemy fighters in the air. The Fleet Air Arm’s pilots needed to first develop the tactics required to help the Shar’s future pilots fight and win against enemy fighters that were likely more suited towards aerial combat than the high-wing strike jumpjet.
On the other side of the pond, the United States Marine Corps was busy beefing up its air-to-ground capabilities with the AV-8A Harrier. This new strike jet would give them a versatile fast attack option that could potentially be deployed really anywhere around the world, especially aboard aircraft carriers which would serve as forward-operating staging platforms. In 1976, Marines began taking the Harrier to sea, first aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Midway-class aircraft carrier. On the FDR, the Marine contingent would test out the Harrier’s ability to operate in adverse weather conditions, as well as pit it in air-to-air mock dogfights against the ship’s complement of F-4 Phantom IIs. Marine pilots quickly came to the conclusion that in a close-in fight, they could actually use the aircraft’s thrust vectoring to their advantage.
The Marine Corps put in a request with Rolls Royce, the designer and builder of the Harrier’s Pegasus engine, as to whether or not this technique would put unnecessary and unwanted stresses on the engine, or if it would outright spoil the engine’s functionality. They still carried on with testing before Rolls Royce got back to them with the “all-clear”! Thrust vectoring while in flight could prove to be the key maneuver they needed for closer air-to-air combat. Ultimately, what resulted was known as Vectoring in Forward Flight (VIFF for short).
VIFF basically involved pilots rotating the nozzles forward from the usual in-flight horizontal position. In doing so, pilots could quickly deplete their airspeed and bleed energy, causing their surprised pursuer(s) to overshoot, suddenly finding their windscreen devoid of any prey they might have previously been chasing. After dropping altitude as a result of VIFFing, the Harrier would now be free to turn the tables on the predator, making the hunter the hunted. In a turning fight, this was an immense advantage for the Harrier’s pilot. But as soon as the pilot VIFFed his opponent, he had to have had a plan for dealing with the bandit, or else he would be in for a world of hurt; that wasn’t a trick any combat pilot would fall for twice.
Among VIFF’s disadvantages was the fact that it could only really be used effectively in turning fights. If the pursuing aircraft was flying with a wingman, or as part of a larger attack flight, the odds would be stacked fairly high against the Harrier. Additionally, after VIFFing, any other enemy fighters that weren’t engaged in the melee between the Harrier and the first jet were placed in a prime position to take a shot at the jumpjet, which took time to rebuild energy from the very-taxing VIFF maneuver (i.e. regain airspeed).
During the Falklands War, in the early 1980s, British Harrier pilots might have attempted putting VIFFing to use against Argentinian Mirage fighters, which were decidedly more suited towards the air-to-air role than the Harrier. In fact, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that VIFFing was indeed the deciding factor in any engagement involving the Harrier. However, even with the Mirage being built for air combat, it still proved to be ineffective against the superior training of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots and technology (i.e. the AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile), who did not lose a single Harrier or Sea Harrier in air-to-air combat during the entire conflict, while inflicting losses on the Argentinian air force. RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots were able to employ the tactics they developed like never before, proving that a Harrier, in the right hands, is truly a deadly and highly capable machine.
There’s a nasty villain who’s holed himself up in a compound somewhere in BadGuyLand. Both the United States and Russia want to nab this guy – and get him bad. Then, there is a need to rescue some hostages being held at a second compound.
The United States will send elements of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as “Delta Force.” Russia will send elite spetsnaz troops. Who do you send where?
Let’s put the movies starring Chuck Norris aside (even if they were pretty awesome – and where can I get that motorcycle?). The real Delta Force is filled with very deadly operators.
Founded in 1977, and taking over for an interim unit known as Blue Light. Some Delta operators have risen to great heights: Gen. Peter Schoomaker became Army Chief of Staff, while Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin rose to command Army Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.
Delta operators are recruited from across the military, but the 75th Ranger Regiment seems to be a primary source, according to a 2006 statement during a Congressional testimony.
Delta was primarily a counter-terrorist group, but has since evolved to carry out a variety of missions, including the capture of high-value targets.
One such operation in 1993 turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. The unit was also involved in the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons expert this year, and reportedly also helped capture the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” this past Janaury.
During Operation Just Cause, Delta operatives rescued Kurt Muse from one of Noriega’s prisons. Delta also carried out a major raid on an ISIS prison in Oct. 2015 that freed seven prisoners. Sergeant 1st Class Josh Wheeler was killed in the raid.
Russia’s spetsnaz were created for a different purpose.
Founded by the Soviet Union, they worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. Their mission was to track down and destroy American tactical and theater nuclear systems like the MGR-3 Little John and the MGM-31 Pershing missile.
But their mission evolved into hunting other targets.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, spetsznaz took out the Afghan president. Spetsnaz have also seen action in Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Syrian civil war. Russia trained a lot of them – according to Viktor Suvarov, a defecting Soviet officer, there were 20 brigades and 41 companies of spetsnaz in 1978.
That number went up after the invasion of Afghanistan.
Spetsnaz and Delta each boast the usual small arms (assault rifles and pistols). The spetsznaz have some unique specialized gear, like the NRS-2 survival knife that can fire a pistol round, and the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle that is capable of select-fire. The large size of spetsnaz – 12 formations of brigade or regimental size in 2012 – means that they are not as selective as Delta.
So, who do you send where? Since the spetsnaz are almost mass-produced, it makes more sense to send them after the high-value target. If the guy lives to be turned over to people like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell who can… encourage him to talk, fine.
But Delta Force will be needed for the hostage rescue mission, since they have performed it very well in the past.
As the heavy C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft departed Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and raced to its first aerial refueling point off the coast of England, more than a dozen U.S. airmen watched the clock, knowing the life of a badly wounded U.S. soldier hung in the balance.
The circumstances were dire. The special operations soldier, unidentified for privacy reasons, had been hit when an improvised explosive device detonated, fracturing his pelvis and gravely injuring his abdomen, arms and legs. It took three aircraft, 24,000 gallons of fuel and about two dozen gallons of blood to sustain the soldier during the 8,000-mile non-stop journey back to the U.S., where he required specialized care.
Nearly a month after the mission, the troops who participated in it are still in awe they were able to get the soldier home alive.
Also amazed is Asia, the special operator’s wife, who is eternally grateful at the way the military mobilized not for combat, but for her husband.
“I knew that they flew straight over, and I knew that they weren’t gonna stop — unless they absolutely had to,” Asia said in an interview with Military.com on Sept. 25, 2019. “They commit 110%.”
A Bona fide bloodline
Early on a Friday morning, Asia was getting ready to take her son to school in Savannah, Georgia, when she got a phone call.
For a moment, time stood still, she said.
Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, and Lt. Col. Scott King, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care air transport team physician, perform an ultrasound on a critically wounded service member during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
“At first, I just stood there, and then I started crying,” said Asia, who asked to be identified by only her first name. “You’re not prepared for this, if you understand what I’m saying. You’re more prepared for a death.”
She snapped back to reality, knowing she’d be waiting for any type of answers the military could provide for the next few days until her husband was back on U.S. soil.
Asia had been with her husband for nine years and married to him for seven. Eight of those years, he had been in the Army.
She knew he’d been hurt, and doctors in Afghanistan called or sent a text message any time they had an update.
Maj. Charlie Srivilasa, a trauma surgeon with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group at Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, had already had a busy morning with multiple casualties coming in when the soldier arrived at the facility.
Grievously injured, the operator immediately became a priority.
“We probably had about five or six surgeons working on him at any given time,” Srivilasa said. In the three days before the soldier was transported, Srivilasa and his team performed four operations, including amputations of his right arm and lower right leg.
The frequent surgeries meant the patient needed a steady supply of fresh blood.
Roughly 100 troops stood in line to donate blood outside the hospital quarters.
Over the course of treatment at Bagram, the soldier received more than 195 units of transfused blood, including whole blood and plasma — some 16 times the volume of blood in the average person’s body.
A side effect of the massive transfusions was the possibility that his lungs could fail, said Srivilasa. The soldier also could have succumbed to infection from his wounds, he said.
“He was by far the most critically ill patient [we’ve] seen here in theater [in my] four months,” he said. Doctors knew the best thing was to put him on a plane to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where specialized care would be waiting for him.
Service members wait in line to donate blood at Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Aug. 18, 2019, as part of a “walking blood bank” for a fellow service member being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
Up in the air
Maj. Dan Kudlacz, a C-17 evaluator pilot with the 436th Airlift Wing out of Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with a planned stop at Bagram that August weekend when he got word the mission would no longer mean picking up basic cargo. Kudlacz was the commander of REACH 797, the call sign for the mission, and one of four pilots and three loadmasters. One of the pilots in the group was also in training, meaning Kudlacz was working on certifying his fellow pilot in addition to keeping the aircraft steady.
At Ramstein, 18 medical professionals came on board, including personnel from Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) and Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), as well as a team out of San Antonio’s 59th Medical Wing. Members of the 59th specialize in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known as ECMO.
ECMO machines oxygenate the blood and simultaneously removed carbon dioxide, explained Air Force Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, a trauma surgeon and one of the specialists dispatched for the flight.
“The ECMO team here in San Antonio is the only DoD team,” she said.
By the time the specialists arrived, fortunately, ECMO was no longer needed, she said. But kidney dialysis was.
“His kidneys did not recover immediately, so in order to stabilize him … we had to have dialysis continuously,” Sams said. The teams borrowed one of Craig Joint Theater Hospital’s dialysis machines for the return home.
Capt. Natasha Cardinal, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care nurse, monitors her patient during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
Finishing up their necessary crew rest in Afghanistan, the personnel geared up for the 19-hour flight. Another patient also came on board; that service member was ambulatory, able to move about for the duration of the flight, Sams said.
Kudlacz said the aircrew consistently monitored speed and altitude, knowing there were sensitive medical machines on board keeping the soldier alive. The pilots kept a cruise altitude of 28,000 feet, a few thousand feet lower than expected. “Over a 19-hour flight, [that] can make a considerable change in your total fuel,” he said.
He added that, had the critical soldier taken a turn for the worse, the plan was to divert back to Germany.
Asia, the soldier’s wife, was praying that wouldn’t happen.
“I was told that, if they would have had to stop in Germany, it was because something medically was going wrong,” she said. Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air Operations Center, also known as the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC), stood by to provide backup assistance.
During the first refuel near England, there was a close call.
Connecting the C-17 to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling boom almost sent the two aircraft bobbing and weaving. The KC-135, flying on autopilot — which controls the trajectory of the aircraft — started to change the plane’s pitch, which moves the nose up or down.
Kudlacz and his co-pilot disconnected, backed off and tried again.
“To make the situation even more challenging, it was at night, so you don’t have all the visual cues of a horizon. And then we just happened to be right at the top of a cloud layer,” he said.
In the back of the aircraft, the medical teams were monitoring the soldier’s oxygen level, ventilation, blood pressure and kidney function.
“Regular AE and CCATT [teams] cannot do renal replacement therapy; maybe there are some that have just isolated familiarity with the renal replacement machine,” said Lt. Col. Scott King, CCATT physician with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight at Ramstein.
With the help of the ECMO team, “I think it was a coordinated and collaborative effort among all of the members that brought in different pieces together to allow this mission to be accomplished,” King said.
The C-17 had eight hours until its next refuel near Bangor, Maine. Meanwhile, maintenance crew chiefs with the second KC-135 hurried to get the aircraft, which had a gauge problem on one of the engines, ready to fly, said Maj. Jeffery Osgood, chief of 6th Operations Group training and the aerial refueling mission commander from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
“Adapting to the mission is probably the biggest takeaway. It’s just making sure you have everything ready to go with all the people that you need and all the support from leadership,” Osgood said. A backup tanker was on standby just in case, AMC officials said.
The second tanker caught the C-17 around 2 a.m. Monday morning. Together, the two tankers offloaded 24,000 gallons of fuel.
Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, performs an ultrasound to monitor a patient during a direct flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)
“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and this [is] not something I’ve ever experienced,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Smith, an AE member with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight. The duration and double refuel was not an easy task for the parties involved, he said.
With the amount of equipment and coordination needed, “rarely does it ever work out so perfectly,” he said.
The next journey
Sams, the trauma surgeon, said she’s hopeful the soldier — who has required orthopedic treatment as well as treatment in the burn unit — will be out of intensive care soon. He has months of physical therapy ahead, she said.
Asia is relocating her family to Texas to be closer to her husband as he goes through treatment.
This “is a new normal,” she said. “It’s about four to five months inside the hospital, and then, after that, I would say it’s another six months. So I would say it’s [going to be] a year total.”
Their son will stay with family and friends in Illinois for the next few weeks until Asia and her husband feel he’s ready.
“It’s just a process,” she said. “[But] I feel as though his determination to live and to fight, to come back home, to see me and to see his son has been the number one thing that has kept him alive; and then the good Lord and all the doctors and the medical team.”
She’ll never forget their persistence to save his life.
“They literally put their whole heart in it, their body and soul, and they do what they need to do to get loved ones back [home],” Asia said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Did you ever wonder why the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy?
Historically, marines serve as a navy’s ground troops. In fact, the word “marine” is the French word for sea, which may be why the French military historically called English troops — who all had to arrive by sea — “marines.”
Marines Aboard USS Wasp Engage HMS Reindeer. June 1814.
(Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer., 1927 – 1981.)
Back in the day, there wasn’t much difference between a sailor and a soldier on a ship. After all, most sea battles ended with the ships tangled together and the crews fighting each other hand to hand. So, if you were on a ship, you had to be able to fight. But you also had to be able to fight once your ship got where it was going.
Italy was the first country to use specially trained sailors as naval infantry. Back in the 1200s, the chief magistrate of Venice put 10 companies of specialized troops on a bunch of ships and sent them off to conquer Byzantium in present-day Greece. That went well for the Italians, so they decided that having marines was a good idea and kept them around, later calling them “sea infantry.”
The idea of marines eventually caught on with other naval powers. The Spanish marine corps was founded in 1537 and is the oldest still-active marine corps in the world, while the Netherlands marine corps, founded in 1665, is the second-oldest. But, even today, marines in most countries are specially trained sailors who are part of the navy.
The British Royal Marines, which is what the U.S. Marine Corps was modeled on, were probably the first naval infantry to not actually be sailors. During the 1600-1700s, marine regiments would be formed by taking soldiers from the British Army, and disbanded when they weren’t needed. This practice continued until 1755, when England’s parliament made the Corps of Royal Marines permanent.
When the Continental Marines were founded in 1775, the Continental Congress recognized the importance “that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.”
Marine Capt. Brenda Amor helps to prepare an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter assigned to the “Black Knights” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264 (Reinforced) for flight operations on the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), Jan. 30, 2019. Arlington is on a scheduled deployment as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations, crisis response and theater security cooperation, while also providing a forward naval presence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Parker)
So, maritime knowledge has always been a critical part of being a marine, but the U.S. Marine Corps hasn’t always been part of the U.S. Navy.
Until 1834, the Marines were an independent service. President Andrew Jackson wanted to make the Corps part of the Army. However, the Marine Corps commandant at the time, Archibald Henderson, had proven that Marines were important in landing party operations, not just ship-to-ship battles, so Congress decided to put the Navy and Marine Corps into one department, forever linking these two “sister services.”
Everyone has heard the old stories of judges forcing someone guilty of a small-time crime to choose between a hefty jail sentence or joining the Army. Or the Marine Corps. Or the Navy.
It seems like back in the old days, getting pinched for lifting car parts or selling bootleg cigarettes could end up with the defendant doing a two-year stint in Korea – which could be just as bad as jail, except you get paid.
The practice isn’t as common as it used to be as it turns out. The U.S. military isn’t engaged in a global effort to defeat communism anymore and the days of a peacetime draft are long gone. With the benefits set aside for people joining what is now an all-volunteer force, the military isn’t hurting for new employees.
At least for the most part. It definitely doesn’t require people who would be considered convicts if they hadn’t become soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines.
But in the courtroom, the judge is the absolute ruler. Ruling from the bench means ruling by decree and, within the limits of the Constitution and existing law, the judge can pronounce whatever sentence he or she deems fit.
For a long time, that meant the choice between military service or jail time. But the individual branches of service aren’t a part of the judge’s court and though the judge can order such a sentence on a defendant, that doesn’t mean the military has to take them.
The most recent and notable case of such a choice was that of Michael Guerra of Upstate New York. In 2006 Guerra was facing a conviction of aggravated assault. According to Stars and Stripes, the judge was willing to discharge Guerra if he joined the military. Guerra agreed. The Army did not.
Keep in mind, this was at the height of the Iraq War, when the Army needed soldiers more than anything. The Army preferred to take the PR hit of instituting stop-loss programs rather than take cons like Guerra.
The policy of not taking “jailbirds” is actually part of the Army’s recruiting regulations. Regulation 601-210, paragraph 4-8b reads:
“Applicants who, as a condition for any civil conviction or adverse disposition or any other reason through a civil or criminal court, is ordered or subjected to a sentence that implies or imposes enlistment into the Armed Forces of the United States is not eligible for enlistment.”
Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.
Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:
This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)
It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.
Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.
Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.
Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)
People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”
See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.
Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.
That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)
Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.
Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.
These are military police. That is not a radar gun.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)
Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.
They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.
Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)
Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.
There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.
An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)
Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.
Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.
Remember back when they first announced that the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade would be a thing and everyone lost their collective sh*ts because they’re conventional troops that wear berets like special operations, rock a unit patch that looks like special operations, and even share their first two initials (SF) with special forces?
Yeah. Well, they’re currently deployed doing grunt things with the Green Berets while your ass is setting up a Powerpoint presentation on how to teach drill and ceremony.
Funny how that works out, huh? Anyways, have some memes before you get too butthurt.
After years of discussion, the U.S. Air Force has taken the initial steps to buy commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft for its light attack aircraft fleet.
The service is alerting defense firms hoping to compete for the Light Attack Aircraft program that it intends to begin soliciting bids in December, according to a presolicitation announcement posted on FedBizOpps on Aug. 3, 2018.
“LAA will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years,” the post said. “A contract will be awarded in fourth quarter of [fiscal 2019].”
While the program would remain a full and open competition, Air Force officials said the most viable aircraft are the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.
“Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Textron Aviation are the only firms that appear to possess the capability necessary to meet the requirement within the Air Force’s timeframe without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter,” the FedBizOpps post said.
The two single-engine turboprop aircraft were most recently part of the service’s light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The second phase of the experiment was canceled in July following a fatal crash.
A Light Attack Distinguished Visitors Day, originally set for July and canceled after the fatal crash, has been rescheduled for Sept. 14 at Andrews Air Force Base, Air Force officials said.
Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, top acquisition official for the Air Force, told reporters at the time that the service would continue to work with defense industry partners to complete remaining test requirements, which mostly consist of maintenance and sustainment data.
He said then that a potential request for proposal for light attack, also known as OA-X, could be issued by December.
“If we decide that we’re going to go forward with the acquisition … if that’s the direction we’re going to go, we want to get an RFP out on the street by December,” he said last month. “If we go down that path … what we then want to do is make a downselect decision within the next fiscal year.”
The Air Force in 2016 announced plans to hold flight demonstrations with a handful of aircraft to test whether lighter, inexpensive and off-the-shelf aircraft might be suitable in ongoing wars such as Afghanistan.
As part of Phase I, four aircraft — the A-T6 and A-29, as well as AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion — conducted demonstrations and weapons drops during the experiment at Holloman in August 2017. After Phase I was completed, the Air Force selected the Wolverine and Super Tucano to undergo more demonstration fly-off scenarios between May and July of this year.
A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)
In November, key lawmakers agreed to provide the Air Force with 0 million to continue experimenting with the planes. Additionally, lawmakers recently passed the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes 0 million “to procure Air Force light attack aircraft and associated long lead material,” according to the bill’s summary.
If the planes can be interoperable with other militaries’ planes, the result would be a diverse fleet of aircraft with partners across the world, officials have said.
“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement released Aug. 3, 2018. “Today’s Air Force is smaller than the nation needs and the Light Attack Aircraft offers an option to increase the Air Force capacity beyond what we now have in our inventory or budget.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Military.com in September that the light attack initiative should be viewed as a new way of doing business — not just a plane, but part of a larger communications system.
OA-X “is actually not about the hardware — it’s about the network,” he said, adding he wants the service to train more often with coalition partners who may not have high-end fighter aircraft.
“At the same that we’re looking at a relatively inexpensive aircraft and sensor package, can I connect that into a network of shareable information that allows us to better accomplish the strategy as it’s been laid out?” Goldfein asked.
Bunch last month added, “We’re still going to experiment and try out the network in other areas over time. The goal of this network is to get it to the point where we can utilize it in other platforms beyond light attack.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In 1939, German scientist Adolf Butenandt was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in documenting how hormones transfer signals between the body’s cells and organs to regulate bodily functions. His discoveries were revolutionary, paving the way for many of today’s medical necessities, including birth control and steroids.
These same scientific revelations lead, eventually, to the creation of anabolic steroids. Today, the business of manufacturing and selling synthetic testosterone is massive — and highly illegal.
Although the military is considered a team environment, if you’re looking for a promotion, it’s ultimately up to you to work extremely hard to stand out among your peers. Some troops who want to gain a physical edge on their fellow brothers-in-arms, however, turn to various types of anabolic steroids to, hopefully, more quickly achieve their goals. Not only is this illegal, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Unfortunately, finding a vial testosterone, especially on a military installation, is pretty easy and young troops don’t mind trying out the fabricated hormone in hopes it’ll make them jacked. The majority of service members who take the mass-building substance, however, usually don’t understand what it does to the body.
Note: This is a basic overview of how anabolic steroids affect the human body. As always, do your own research.
When a soldier trains, their natural testosterone levels drop dramatically as the body releases other hormones, called glucocorticoids, which helps reduce inflammation. However, glucocorticoids have a secondary effect of sending your body into a catabolic state.
Being in a catabolic state means your muscle tissue is breaking down. During that state, steroids affect hormonal imbalance in two different ways. First, they replenish testosterone levels, which hastens muscle repair. Secondly, they’re known to block the glucocorticoids from breaking down muscle fibers.
When we tear a muscle during a workout, it’s the protein you’ve consumed during the day that makes its way to the damaged fiber and restores it, making it bigger and better each time. When someone takes a testosterone supplement, it quickly moves into your cells, activating protein synthesis and enhancing the rebuilding process.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the average man produces between four and seven milligrams of testosterone per day. Compare that to a bottle testosterone enanthate, which can contain up to 300 milligrams per cc. This amount is injected by the average steroid user two to three times per week.
There are more than a few unpleasant side effects to taking anabolic, like acne, gynecomastia, fluid retention, and testicular atrophy. Long-term effects can include high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and liver and heart damage.
Note: WATM doesn’t condone the use of steroids, but if you’re going to do them, you should carefully review the potential risks involved.