Radars have long been used to track targets in the air or at sea but, traditionally, radar isn’t known for its ability to track targets on land. Despite its reputation, radar has been used for exactly that purpose as far back as Operation Desert Storm.
Electronics have advanced rapidly since then, however. In the last 25 years, we’ve gone from clunky desktop computers that ran up to 16 megabytes of RAM and a 250 megabyte hard drive to using laptops that hold 32 gigabytes of RAM and have terabytes of storage space. Today, the cell phone you hold in your hand is arguably more powerful than a top-of-the-line gaming PC of 25 years ago.
The E-8C JSTARS had to be based on the Boeing 707.
Well, that electronics revolution has helped radars, too. Previously, you needed a jumbo jet, like the 707, to carry a radar system around. Modern radars, however, are a lot smaller. One such radar is the APS-134G from Telephonics. According to an official handout, the radar weighs just under 450 pounds!
Despite being lightweight, this radar can do a lot. Among its capabilities is a ground moving target indicator, synthetic aperture radar imaging, wide-area surveillance, coastline mapping, weather mapping, and an aircraft detection and location mode that can simultaneously process over 300 targets!
The HU-25 Guardian used an earlier version of the APS-143.
The small size of this system means that you no longer need a jumbo jet to get a powerful eye in the sky. Among the planes capable of carrying this radar are Beech King Air planes, Bombardier Global business jets, and the CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.
In short, this radar will make it very hard for bad guys to hide.
Being an infantry Marine stationed in Hawai’i is a blessing and a curse. If you get stationed out there, civilians will sarcastically tell you how hard your life is and fellow service members will glare at you with jealousy, but they don’t know the truth — not unless they read Terminal Lance, that is.
When you get orders to Hawai’i, you’ll probably feel excited right off the bat. If you grew up in the mainland United States and you’ve never visited, you’ve likely heard of it as a beautiful, tropical vacation spot. Once you get there, you’ll start to realize that, in some ways, it’s far from an island paradise.
So, to get you prepared, here are a few things you should know about being stationed out there:
Luckily, you’ll get compensated for the cost of living.
Everything is expensive
Mentally prepare yourself now for paying insane prices for things like milk or gasoline. If you’re a smoker, you might as well kick the habit now because you’ll be paying for every pack at the exchange on base. If you ever plan on leaving to explore the island, you’ll pay much more than that.
The facilities suck
Marine Corps Base Hawai’i is small and its size can likely be attributed to the fact that it was originally built to be a Marine Corps Air Station. Only after the fact was it then turned into a full-fledged base equipped to house with infantry battalions and artillery batteries. As you might imagine, there aren’t many options for shopping or entertainment on base.
You’ll become well acquainted with those humid jungles, don’t worry.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)
It’s always humid
Hawai’i is an island nation covered with a lush rain forest and surrounded by ocean. Not only is the heat intense, but the humidity is thick, making matters much worse. Not a day will go by where you won’t sweat — unless you spend the whole day in an air-conditioned building.
At least the sun will be gone for a bit of time.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)
It’s always raining
Remember how it’s always humid? It’s because it constantly rains. If you’re infantry, you already know that rain is somehow magically, meteorologically attracted to where you are in the world so, don’t expect that to change at all in Hawai’i.
The locals hate you
A good amount of them, anyway. If they’re not a tattoo artist or business owner, they’ll probably have a disdain for you being a part of the United States military. Don’t take it personally and just ignore it because there’s no point in getting yourself into trouble when, at the end of the day, you’re not there by choice, anyway.
It won’t take long before you start to feel the claustrophobia.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen)
You’re stuck on an island
Your ass belongs to the Corps, so you best believe you can’t leave that island chain without permission. You can’t really even leave O’ahu unless you do some paperwork, so get used to those islands feeling like a prison.
Imagine an aircraft made of a single structure instead of components. The engine, cockpit, power storage, transmitters, sensors, and more are part of a seamless airframe. There are no wires to pass information through, no fuel containers, or large electronics.
Since 2010, Lockheed Martin’s Applied NanoStructured Solutions (ANS) division has been revolutionizing the way it makes ships, planes, and spacecraft. It created ANS to solve its materials problem, which are the key discriminators for everything the company builds affecting size, weight, speed, durability, and performance, according to Lockheed Martin.
These materials are not just for military jets and ships. The carbon nanomaterials ANS is responsible for developing and commercializing could also be used for detecting cancer, self-repairing buildings, filtering water, and more.
Here is just one example for what Lockheed Martin has in store for the materials made by its ANS subsidiary.
A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.
Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.
Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.
Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.
While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.
One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”
Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)
Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.
He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.
Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.
Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)
Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.
Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.
Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.
It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.
Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.
“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.
“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.
Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.
They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.
They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.
“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.
“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On May 7th, just barely 20 years after the Columbine shooting, and only seven miles away from the original tragedy, yet another school shooting took place. Thankfully, this one was thwarted early on by three young heroes.
In the face of overwhelming tragedy, an act of heroism casts a ray of hope to focus on amidst the chaos.
An aspiring Marine and his two classmates are being referred to as heroes for their act of bravery at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver, Colorado.
When one of the two gunmen entered the classroom firing—the boys sprang into action and charged the shooter, tackling him.
According to reports, while the three boys charged the shooter, classmates took cover under desks, fled to safety, and some tended to the wounded.
Tragically, one of the wounded was Kendrick Castillo, 18. Castillo was one of the three brave young men who tackled and subdued the gunman. He was shot in the chest as he lunged towards the shooter. He lost his life protecting his classmates. He would have graduated three days later.
Joshua Jones, hero
Another one of the three boys, Joshua Jones, tackled and subdued the shooter. He was shot twice in the leg, but pressed on to hold the assailant down. Amidst all the chaos, he pulled out his phone and called his mom, who he refers to as his ultimate “problem solver.” He told her, “Hey, Mom. There’s been a school shooting. I’ve been involved. The authorities are on the way. They’re going to get an ambulance and I’m going to go to the hospital. That’s all I got right now for you.” Jones says his leg is healing incredibly well.
Brendan Bialy plans to enlist and become a Marine. Semper Fi.
Another one of the three brave young men who defended their classmates was future Marine, Brendan Bialy.
According to Brendan’s father, Brad Bialy, the young men were able to successfully subdue and disarm the gunman, holding the gunman in place until law enforcement arrived. Bialy, who has already proven his bravery and service to others in the direst of circumstances, will continue to do so in honorable service to his country in the Marine Corps.
The two shooters identities have been released, but will not be focused on here. The faces and stories that should live on should be the memory of three young men, in the middle of a normal school day, putting their lives on the line to defend the lives of their classmates.
From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.
1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.
2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.
Darryl during his days as a teacher.
3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.
4. What values were stressed at home?
My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.
Darryl at his first duty station
Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).
Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).
5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?
Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.
James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.
6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?
The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)
I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.
An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.
Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.
Faculty picture for the school yearbook.
7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?
Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.
8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?
“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.
“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.
“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.
Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com
Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”
9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?
I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.
Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.
I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.
Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.
Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.
My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.
Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.
Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com
Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com
Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com
Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com
Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com
10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?
Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.
I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.
Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.
I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.
Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.
Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”
Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term, “gadfly?” Do you think of some annoying person you wish you could just smack? Maybe you’re a rancher and you immediately think about an insect that bites your livestock. If you hear an Air Force or Navy pilot say “gadfly,” however, they’re not talking about some nuisance. They’re talking about a very deadly threat to themselves and their fellow aviators.
They’re talking about the SA-11/SA-N-7 “Gadfly,” a radar-guided surface-to-air missile fired from land-based mobile launchers and from a number of Russian, Chinese, and Indian warships. This missile earned infamy in 2014 when it was used by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine to shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, killing 298 people.
The SA-11 is a radar-guided missile with a range of 20 miles. The system entered service with land forces in 1980 and was deployed by the Soviet Navy on the first Sovremennyy-class guided-missile destroyers in 1983.
The missile did not see combat action, however, until 2008, when both Russia and Georgia used it during the South Ossetia War of 2008. Russian forces shot down four Georgian drones. The Georgian military used the SA-11 to down a Tu-22M Backfire and three Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes.
In the 1990s, the system was widely exported for use within a number of land-based and naval-based units. India initially used the SA-N-7 on its Delhi-class destroyers and later went on to use it on Talwar-class frigates. China bought SA-N-7s when it acquired Sovremennyy-class destroyers from Russia, and eventually put together a land-based version they call the HQ-17.
Learn more about this infamous Russian missile in the video below.
U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern loves dogs. She loves her dog, she loves other peoples’ dogs, she loves dogs she sees in memes and on TV shows. When she found a dirty little white stray sniffing around the camp she was stationed at during a one-year deployment in Iraq, only one thing was going to happen.
“I fell in love with her immediately.”
McKithern, a combat photographer from Tampa, Florida with the 982nd Combat Camera Co. (Airborne), was stationed at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, a multinational military organization responsible for the training of Peshmerga and Northern Iraq Security in and around Erbil, from April 2017 to January 2018.
The little dog and her mom had been wandering around the base for weeks, McKithern found out. Stray dogs are common in Iraq, and the culture is not kind to them. Erby and her mom were kicked and hit with rocks daily, and starving. Her brother and sister had disappeared before McKithern arrived.
Despite her rough experiences with humans to that point, Erby ran right up to McKithern the first time she held out her hand to the shaky little pup covered in scratches and dirt.
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)
“She loved everyone,” said McKithern. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”
McKithern, together with soldiers from the Italian and German armies her unit was partnered with, took to caring for the little dog. They named her Erby Kasima, after nearby Erbil, the largest city in northern Iraq, and “Kasima” being the Arabic name for “beauty and elegance.”
The coalition soldiers would go on convoys into the surrounding countryside to train Iraqi army units six days a week, with McKithern documenting the missions. Every time they returned to the base, Erby was waiting.
“She ran up to our convoy every day,” McKithern recalled. “She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us.”
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)
It didn’t take long for Erby and her mom to realize that, not only were they safe around McKithern and her Italian and German friends, but these humans would feed them too. As the weeks went by, their wounds began to heal and they started putting on healthy weight.
Eventually, the growing pup took to sleeping on the step outside McKithern’s quarters.
As the end of her deployment approached, she started to wonder how she could ever leave Erby behind when she went back to the states and lamented about it on her Facebook page.
“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like ‘I wish I could take her home,'” McKithern said. “I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the non-profit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500.”
The immediate outpouring of generosity was astounding, said McKithern.
“We raised the rest of the money very quickly, and most of it was from complete strangers!”
McKithern had many preparations to make before she left Iraq so Erby could eventually follow her. Vaccinations, documentation, travel arrangements — all had to be done somehow, in a war zone, while she was still fulfilling her duties as a Soldier. It seemed like an overwhelming task in an already overwhelming situation. Even though she now had the funding, McKithern began to lose hope that she’d have the time and energy to pull this off.
That’s when the brotherhood of the Coalition stepped in to help. Several Kurdish and German officers McKithern had befriended on missions stepped in and offered to tie up anything she couldn’t get done and get Erby onto the plane. With their help, everything got squared away. McKithern returned home, and Erby was set to follow her several weeks later.
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)
McKithern had only been home in Florida for about a month when, in a cruel twist of timing, she received orders for a 67-day mission to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, leaving March 11, the very same day Erby was scheduled to arrive at JFK Airport.
“I couldn’t believe it!” said McKithern. “But I’m a Soldier first, and my commander received an email looking for volunteers. The need at Fort McCoy was desperate at the time. It is a gunnery exercise, which was an opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge as a soldier. It killed me that it was going to keep me away from Erby for another two months, but it’s an important mission. It will all be worth it in the end.”
McKithern’s husband, Sgt. Wes McKithern (also a combat cameraman for the 982nd), met Erby at the airport and drove her home to Tampa, where she has been assimilating into an American life of luxury and waiting patiently to be reunited with her rescuer.
In a few short weeks, McKithern will fly home from Fort McCoy to be with her sweet Erby at last. It will be the end of a 16-month journey that’s taken her across the world to find a little dog in a war zone and — with the help of generous strangers, a nonprofit dog rescue, and soldiers from three different armies — bring her all the way back to become part of a family.
“I can’t believe it,” says McKithern. “It feels like a miracle is happening.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
So, you want to be a United States Marine Corps Critical Skills Operator? Well, that’s really great to hear, but a word of warning to all you would-be Raiders out there: To start this journey, you must go through MARSOC Assessment and Selection.
MARSOC is one of our nation’s most elite fighting forces; its members are ready to respond to any crisis, anywhere.
These small but well-trained Marine units embrace the unknown and are prepared to face any challenge. To earn a position on a MARSOC team takes a superhuman effort and the willingness to go above and beyond.
On the long road between you and life as a Raider lies a 23-day training evaluation designed to test Marines’ mental and physical limits in order to reveal the true nature of a candidate’s character.
Check out these seven tips on how to get selected by MARSOC instructors:
7. Be physically fit.
This tip is so obvious it almost goes without saying, but don’t be fooled by the 225 physical fitness test score required to qualify — this is very misleading. If you want to be competitive and have a real shot at being selected, a score of 285 or higher is recommended.
6. Semper Gumby — always be flexible.
Without getting into any specific details, selection creates a dynamic environment replicating austere scenarios that require ingenuity and out-of-the-box problem-solving skills. There is no manual for chaos and chaos is exactly what you will be expected to deal with if you become an operator.
5. Know your knots.
Bowline, around the body bowline, double fisherman’s knot — believe it or not, knowing these knots is an invaluable skill. It’ll save you much pain and aggravation if you learn basic knots before selection. The granny knot is important, too, but you probably already know that one.
4. Be cool; it matters.
Selection is looking for the best, however, all the physical capabilities in the world amount to nothing if you can’t work as a team. Peer evaluation is a major part of selection. Whether you can get along with others has a substantial impact on reaching phase two.
3. Learn land navigation.
Learn how to read a map, orient yourself with a compass, shoot an azimuth, plot points, make intelligent route selections, and understand terrain association. Master these baiscs and always remember: get high, stay high. A straight line is not always the fastest route.
2. Take care of your feet.
You’ll be moving an impressive amount of gear and water across substantial distances for an unknown amount of time. This will take a toll on your feet. Your feet are your life in many situations, so take care of them accordingly. Seek out a doc and get up to speed on basic maintenance, put together a foot-care kit (gauze, bandages, moleskin, etc.), and use it.
Quitting is the surefire way of never being anything you want to be or do anything you want to do. Quitting is a poison that infects all other aspects of your life. If you start quitting now, it can easily become a habit. It is the exact opposite of what MARSOC is looking for and there is no room for quitters on these teams.
The Air Force is looking to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The problem is, one of the planes that they’re pitching as a primary replacement, the F-35, is not seen as a close-air support bird. In an effort to explore other options, there’s the OA-X competition. So far, attention has been primarily focused on three of the four competitors: The AT-6 Wolverine, the AT-29 Super Tucano, and the Textron AirLand Scorpion.
There was a fourth plane that hadn’t been originally considered, but the Air Force brought it along. That fourth option is the AirTractor AT-802U Longsword. The makers of this plane, which is based on a widely-used cropduster, seem to think that it is the best choice to replace what’s considered the best close-air support plane to have ever flown. Let’s take a look, shall we?
MilitaryFactory.com notes that this plane has been around since 1990. It has a top speed of 221 miles per hour and a maximum range of 802 miles. The military versions can carry about 9,000 pounds of payload. So, it carries roughly what the Textron Scorpion can, but it’s slower and can’t fly as far.
The AT-802U does have the ability to operate from dirt roads and improvised airstrips, according to a brochure provided by AirTractor. The plane is capable of firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs. It also packs two .50-caliber Gatling guns with a total of 2,900 rounds of ammo. On its own, that looks like some impressive firepower, but it pales in comparison to the A-10, which packs 1,174 rounds of 30mm ammo that can kill a tank.
The fact is, as WATM has noted before, none of these planes really bring everything to the table like the A-10. The A-10 may be one of those planes, like the C-130, that can only be replaced by a newer, more lethal version of itself.
Learn more about the cropduster that has delusions of replacing the A-10 by watching the video below.
Back in World War II, patrol torpedo, or PT, boats were the scourge of the Japanese Navy. These vessels were so small, they weren’t even measured in tons, but rather by feet. The Elco PT boat was 80 feet long, and the Higgins PT boat was 78.
Many were discarded after World War II, but the Soviet Union, China, and some NATO allies brought the concept back, this time equipping them with anti-ship missiles, like the MM38/MM40 Exocet, the Penguin, and the SS-N-2 Styx.
In the 1980s, the United States got into the game with the Pegasus-class hydrofoil.
The Pegasus was all of 255 tons, according to the Federation of American Scientists. It carried some serious firepower, though: A single 76mm gun, like those used on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (and later, the Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters) forward and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. That’s a lot more than what you see on today’s Littoral Combat Ships.
The Navy bought six of these vessels and based them at Key West, Florida. There, they helped keep an eye on Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and pitched in to fight the War on Drugs. With a top speed in excess of 45 knots, these boats could chase down just about anything on the waves, and their firepower gave them a good chance of defeating any vessel the Cuban Navy could throw at them. That said, these vessels were expensive to operate and suffered from short range.
With the end of the Cold War, the PHMs were among the many assets retired. All six were retired on July 30, 1993. Four of the vessels were scrapped immediately. A fifth, USS Gemini (PHM 6), became a yacht for a brief time before she went to the scrapyard. The lone surviving vessel in this class is the former USS Aries (PHM 5), which is slated to become part of a hydrofoil museum.
It might be easy to assume that military veterans get out and do something similar to what they did in the military, but that’s not always true. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that plenty of us get out and become artists. We’re not just talking about painting and drawing; we’re talking about music and film as well. Either way, veterans can make some damn good art.
Service members may not always be seen as the artistic types, especially not those who served in the infantry, but the truth is that we go through the military and acquire all sorts of knowledge and experience that give us the tools we need to draw d*cks everywhere make great art.
Could it be that we all have stories to tell? Perhaps, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
The things that made our life tough are great for telling stories.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
We spend lots of time going places and collecting all sorts of experiences that one might not otherwise gain from sitting around their hometown. We get to experience life from a new perspective, and it helps us go from dumb, crayon-eating 18-year-olds to dumb, crayon-eating 22-year-olds with life experience.
This gives us a lot to say and the courage and wisdom to say it.
Even this photo is a great example.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesse Stence)
Attention to detail
In the military, if you don’t notice even the smallest details, people can get hurt. That same quality contributes to making great art — attention to even the smallest of brush strokes.
We know how to stand almost completely still for hours.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damon Mclean)
We can sit down and force ourselves to focus on anything and continuously find ways to get better at it.
Standing in lines for hours is a great way to build this quality.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)
Veterans know that good things come with patience. Creating art is no exception to this rule. You simply can’t rush great work. Those that do end up with something like Justice League, and we all know how that turned out (terrible — it was terrible).
Learning to never quit is your first lesson in the military.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Emmanuel Necoechea)
We don’t give up. We refuse to quit. Ask any artist and they’ll tell you that they’ve dealt with a good amount of rejection.
We’ve been trained to keep attacking an objective until we succeed.
A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.
The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.
Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:
What happened and where?
The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.
Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.
Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.
But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.
According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.
Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.
Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.
As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.
At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.
Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.
Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?
From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.
At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.
Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.
With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.
But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”
“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”
The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.
The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.
The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.
As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”
Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”
Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.
The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.
Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.
There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.
Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.
Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly statedthat holding elections under martial law would be possible.
Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunkin recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.
But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.
How did we get here?
Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.
The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.
Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.
Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.
How will the international community respond?
An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.
Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.
Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”
But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.
Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.
What’s Russia’s next move?
With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.
Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.
If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.
“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.
“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”
It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”