11 weapons used by Russia's elite Spetsnaz operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

The elite Russian force known as the Spetsnaz has a long history going back to the Red Bolshevik Guard, but little is known about them because of the unit’s secretive nature. They do, however, know their weapons.


Numbering around 15,000-17,000, most Spetsnaz are comparable to US Army Rangers, according to the book “Spetsnaz: Russia’s Special Forces” by Mark Galeotti. About 1,000 of them, however, are on par with the US Army’s Delta Force or Navy SEALs.

The Spetsnaz are also organized differently than US special operations forces in that they have units in multiple military branches, all with their own specialized training.

The Spetsnaz are also afforded the opportunity, according to Galeotti, to usually “get the first pick of new types [of weapons], and also enjoy much greater freedom to customize and “mix and match” their weapons.

Below are 11 of the most commonly used Spetsnaz weapons, according to Galeotti.

1. AK-74

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider

The standard Spetsnaz weapon, according to Galeotti, is some version of the 5.45mm AK-74 rifle. Seen here is the AK-74M, which is also the standard issue for much of the Russian Army. It weighs about 8 pounds and has a 30 round magazine capacity.

Moscow has repeatedly said that they would replace the AK-74 with the AN-94 or the AK-12, which would provide better long-range accuracy, according to Galeotti. The Spetsnaz have used these weapons sparingly, but budget constraints have set this plan back.

2. AKS-74U Carbine

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider

Another AK-74 model that the Spetsnaz use is the short-barreled AKS-74U carbine. Also known as the “Krink”, it was originally developed for the Spetsnaz in the mid-1970s and has a nifty side-folding stock, according to The Firearm Blog.

3. AKM

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider

Some Spetsnaz operators sport a slightly different AKM fitted with a GP-25 grenade launcher. The AKM, which is a modernized version of the AK-47, fires 7.62 mm rounds up to 383 yards.

4. SVD Dragunov

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider

Spetsnaz snipers play an important role in the elite force, and they carry a variety of weapons. Although it’s less commonly used today, some still prefer the SVD Dragunov, which fires 7.62 mm rounds and can hit targets up to 1312 yards out.

5. SVDS Dragunov

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider

Another rifle used by Spetsnaz snipers is the SVDS Dragunov, which is an advanced, lighter version of the SVD with a folding-stock. It was originally designed for Russian paratroopers — the VDV.

6. SV-98

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider

Seen here is the bolt-action SV-98 sniper rifle, which the Spetsnaz have begun using more frequently. It usually has a scope with a range of about 1,110 yards, according to Galeotti.

7. VSS Vintorez

For stealth missions, Spetsnaz are more likely to carry the VSS Vintorez silenced sniper rifle, which the soldier on the front right is holding. It fires a heavy 9x39mm round, according to Galeotti, but is not as accurate at long-range shots. This weapon has become a “trademark” for the Spetsnaz, and has been used a lot in Crimea.

8. PKP Pecheneg

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

 

The PKP Pecheneg general purpose machine gun is Spetsnaz’ main squad weapon, according to Galeotti. It fires a 7.62x54mm round, according to thefirearmblog.com, and began to be used by the Russian military in 2001. The PKP is similar to the US’ M249 machine gun.

9. AS Val

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider

Another rifle the Spetsnaz carry is a 9mm AS Val. It fires subsonic rounds, which means the bullet travels below the speed of sound and conceals the snapping sound of supersonic bullets.

10. SR-3

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
Photo courtesy of Vitalykuzmin.net/
They also use the SR-3, which is a shortened version of the AS Val. It fires a 9x39mm subsonic round. It’s intended for concealed carry and can be fitted with a suppressor.

11. GSh-18

For a sidearm, Spetsnaz operators generally carry the 9mm GSh-18. It’s made for close combat, has an 18 round magazine and bullets that can pierce body armor.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 13 funniest memes for the week of May 4th

It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.


Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.

Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Salty Soldier)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via USAWTFM)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Five Bravo)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.

It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via Military World)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

(Meme via /r/Military)

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just released 14 awesome new photos of Jupiter

It’s been a busy and exhilarating couple of months for scientists who study Jupiter— and space nerds fascinated by the gas giant.

On July 18, 2018, a team of researchers announced the discovery of 12 new Jovian moons, bringing Jupiter’s total up to 79. In July 2018, scientists revealed that data from NASA’s $1 billion Juno mission suggested there may be a previously undiscovered volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io. And in June 2018, the team behind Juno figured out that Jupiter’s lighting is more similar to Earth’s than previously thought — which solved a 39-year-old mystery.


But most excitingly, NASA confirmed in June 2018 that Juno, which has orbited Jupiter since July 2015, will cheat death for at least three more years. The probe was scheduled to crash into Jupiter’s clouds in July 2018, but instead the mission has been extended until at least July 2021.

That gives scientists a chance to complete the mission’s main goal: to map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravitational fields.

This work is done by flying Juno over Jupiter’s cloud tops at speeds roughly 75 times as fast as a bullet. These flybys, called perijoves, happen once every 53.5 days. The most recent one (Juno’s 14th perijove) occurred on July 16, 2018, and the prior flyby was on May 24, 2018.

The high-speed trips have allowed NASA to document the gas giant like never before. An optical camera called JunoCam captures beautiful images of Jupiter each time, and the space agency uploads the raw photo data to its websites. Then people around the world can download that data and process it into stunning color pictures.

Here are 13 mesmerizing images from the latest perijove, along with a few highlights from past flybys.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

This high-contrast photo was processed by NASA software engineer Kevin M. Gill, who processes raw data from each perijove soon after it becomes available. You can find more of his work on Twitter or Flickr.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

A 3D illustration of Jupiter’s stormy north pole made using infrared photos taken by NASA’s Juno probe.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot looks like a leering ruddy-red eye in this processed image from Juno’s 12th perijove.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Doran also made this mysterious portrait of the planet, in which you can see the twinkle of myriad stars in the background.

You can see more of Doran’s work on his Twitter or Flickr pages, and he also sells some of his Jupiter images as posters through the platform Redbubble.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

An illustration of NASA’s Juno probe flying over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot superstorm.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Half of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa as seen via images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Jupiter as seen by the Juno probe during its 10th perijove.

For the next three years, though, we’ll continue to get new batches of incredible images from the farthest solar-powered spacecraft ever launched from Earth.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China warns the US against putting new missiles on its ‘doorstep’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Aug. 3, 2019, that he wants to put ground-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the Pacific to confront regional threats, a move that is antagonizing rivals China and Russia.

“We would like to deploy the capability sooner rather than later,” he said Aug. 3, 2019, just one day after the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the US and Russia officially expired. “I would prefer months. I just don’t have the latest state of play on timelines.”

He did not identify where the missiles would be located in Asia, suggesting that the US would develop the weapons and then sort out placement later. He has said it could be “years” before these weapons are fielded in the region.


The 1987 INF Treaty prohibited the development and deployment of conventional and nuclear ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, but the treaty has ended, giving the US new options as it confronts China’s growing might in the Asia-Pacific region.

Following the end of the treaty, Esper said in a statement Aug. 2, 2019, that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling these moves a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.” But, the Defense Department is also clearly looking at China. “Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” Esper told reporters Aug. 3, 2019. It “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

In his previous role as the secretary of the Army, Esper made long-range precision fires a top priority, regularly arguing that the US needs long-range, stand-off weaponry if it is to maintain its competitive advantage in a time of renewed great power competition.

Both Russia and China have expressed opposition to the possibility of US missiles in the Pacific.

“If the deployment of new US systems begins specifically in Asia, then the corresponding steps to balance these actions will be taken by us in the direction of parrying these threats,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Aug. 5, 2019.

“If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Asia-Pacific, especially around China, the aim will apparently be offensive. If the US insists on doing so, the international and regional security will inevitably be severely undermined,” China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Aug. 5, 2019.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

An M270 multiple launch rocket system maneuvers through a training area prior to conducting their live fire exercise at Rocket Valley, South Korea, Sep. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam, 210th FA Bde PAO)

“China will not just sit idly by and watch our interests being compromised. What’s more, we will not allow any country to stir up troubles at our doorstep. We will take all necessary measures to safeguard national security interests,” she added.

Her rhetoric mimicked Esper’s criticisms of China over the weekend, when he spoke of a “disturbing pattern of aggressive” behavior and warned that the US will not “stand by idly while any one nation attempts to reshape the region to its favor at the expense of others.”

While some observers are concerned US missile deployments may ignite an escalated arms race between great power rivals, Tom Karako, a missile defense expert at CSIS, argues that this is an evolution rather than a radical change in US defensive posturing in the region, an adaptation to Russian and Chinese developments.

“We want China’s leadership to wake up every morning and think this is not a good day to pick a fight with the United States or its allies,” Karako told INSIDER.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

An M270 multiple launch rocket system fires during a live fire exercise at Rocket Valley, South Korea, Sep. 15, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam, 210th FA Bde PAO)


Mobile land-based missile systems complicate surveillance and targeting. “The point is not to consolidate and put everything in one spot so it can be targeted but to move things around and make it so that the adversary doesn’t know where these things are at any given time.”

“I would not minimize the potential advantages of this kind of posture,” Karako added.

Should the US pursue this course, China’s response is unlikely to be friendly, experts in China warn. “If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Asia, China will certainly carry out countermeasures and augment its own missile forces in response, so as to effectively deter the US,” Li Haidong, a professor in the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University told the Global Times.

For now, the US has not made any moves to deploy missiles to the Pacific; however, the US is looking at testing a handful of new ground-based systems.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Tom Clancy used this wargame for ‘Red Storm Rising’

Tom Clancy’s 1986 novel Red Storm Rising is arguably his literary tour de force. Following on the heels of 1984’s The Hunt for Red October, it cemented Clancy’s status as the inventor of the techno-thriller genre. Despite being a massive best-seller, Clancy never won a Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize for his contributions to the field of literature.

In Red Storm Rising, “Dance of the Vampires” featured a Soviet attack on a NATO carrier force centered on USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and the French carrier Foch (R99). In the book, the Nimitz was badly damaged by two AS-6 Kingfish missiles, while the Foch took three hits and was sunk.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

There was little understanding of how new technology like the Tu-22M Backfire would play into a war.

(DOD painting)

But how did Clancy manage to make that moment in the book so realistic? The answer lies in a wargame designed by Larry Bond called Harpoon. Bond is best known as a techno-thriller author of some repute himself, having written Red Phoenix, Cauldron, and Red Phoenix Burning, among others. But he designed the Harpoon wargame, which came in both a set of rules for miniatures and a computer game. (Full disclosure: The author is a long-time fan of the game, and owns both miniature and computer versions.)

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Alas, poor Foch, you were doomed from the start.

(U.S. Navy photo)

At WargameVault.com, Larry Bond explained that while the end result had been determined, what was lacking was an understand of two big areas: How would all these new systems interact, and what would the likely tactics be? As a result, they ran the game three times, and it was not a small affair: A number of others took part, resulting in each side’s “commander” having “staffs” who used written standard orders and after-action reports.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

A simulated massacre of Tu-22M Backfires off Iceland also shaped the plot of ‘Red Storm Rising.’

(U.S. Navy)

Each of the three games had very different results, but the gaming helped to make Red Storm Rising a literary masterpiece of the last 20th century. Incidentally, Harpoon further shaped Red Storm Rising through a scenario called the “Keflavik Turkey Shoot” – a gaming result that convinced Clancy to include the Soviet Union taking Iceland in the early portions of the book.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

While she sits in reserve today, at the time of ‘Red Storm Rising,’ USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) was the latest and greatest in naval technology.

(US Navy photo)

Bond released a collection of those scenarios, and some other material into an electronic publication called “Dance of the Vampires,” available for .00 at WargameVault.com. It is a chance to see how a wargame shaped what was arguably the best techno-thriller of all time.

Articles

A former Navy SEAL officer reveals the 11-point checklist he used to prepare for combat

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators
Former Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser Charlie Platoon leader Leif Babin. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin


When Leif Babin was training to become a US Navy SEAL officer, he didn’t expect to spend so much time working out combat mission briefs in Powerpoint presentations, he explains in his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win.”

It was a common feeling, and the reason why in training sessions, he and other officers-in-training had a tendency to create briefs with the intention of impressing their instructors, as opposed to crafting plans that would actually be valuable to an entire team.

When Babin joined Task Unit Bruiser in 2006 as the officer in charge of Charlie Platoon, his commander and future co-author Jocko Willink told him to forget about Powerpoint. As part of a final exercise that would determine if they would be sent to fight in an incredibly dangerous part of Iraq (a desirable scenario for them), Babin and another platoon commander needed to create a mission brief that was more impressive than two other task units.

“The true test for a good brief is not whether the senior officers are impressed,” Willink told them. “It’s whether or not the troops that are going to execute the operation actually understand it. Everything else is bull—.”

Babin and his fellow platoon leader stopped worrying about being impressive and focused on how to make their mission brief as clean and easy to follow as possible. They worked with their subordinates to ensure that if they had to put the brief into action, every member of the team would clearly understand the mission required of him.

The commanding officer in charge of judging the briefs determined Task Unit Bruiser had the most understandable and thus the best of the three, even if the others had more impressive-looking PowerPoint slides. It placed an emphasis on what Willink calls “Commander’s Intent,” which is when the team understands its commander’s purpose and the mission’s endstate so thoroughly that they can act without further guidance.

Task Unit Bruiser was sent to Ramadi, where it became the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War.

It was a valuable teaching experience for Babin. In “Extreme Ownership” he outlines the planning checklist that he used as platoon commander:

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

  • Analyze the mission. Understand higher headquarters’ mission, Commander’s Intent, and endstate (the goal). Identify and state your own Commander’s Intent and endstate for the specific mission.
  • Identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available.
  • Decentralize the planning process.Empower key leaders within the team to analyze possible courses of action.
  • Determine a specific course of action.Lean toward selecting the simplest course of action.
  • Empower key leaders to develop the plan for the selected course of action.
  • Plan for likely contingencies through each phase of the operation.
  • Mitigate risks that can be controlled as much as possible.
  • Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders. Stand back and be the tactical genius.
  • Continually check and question the plan against emerging information to ensure it still fits the situation.
  • Brief the plan to all participants and supporting assets. Emphasize Commander’s Intent. Ask questions and engage in discussion and interaction with the team to ensure they understand.
  • Conduct post-operational debrief after execution. Analyze lessons learned and implement them in future planning.

Babin writes that this checklist can be easily adapted to the business world, and it’s what he and Willink have taught executives they’ve worked with through their leadership consulting firmEchelon Front since 2011.

“Implementing such a planning process will ensure the highest level of performance and give the team the greatest chance to accomplish the mission and win,” Babin writes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US envoy doubts Taliban is really seeking peace

The U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has questioned the Taliban’s determination to end the 17-year war, after the group’s representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.

“We have to wait and see their forthcoming steps,” Khalilzad told Afghan news agency Ariana News on Dec. 20, 2018, according to a translation of the interview provided by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”


Khalilzad’s remarks came after his latest face-to-face meeting in December 2018 with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The U.A.E. hailed the talks as “positive for all parties concerned.”

And the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, said that the meetings will produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”

But the Taliban would not meet with a 12-person Afghan delegation, Khalilzad said, describing the decision as “wrong.”

“If the Taliban are really seeking peace, they have to sit with the Afghan government ultimately to reach an agreement on the future political settlement in Afghanistan,” the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan said.

The Taliban has refused direct talks with the Afghan government, which it says is an American puppet.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

TMF President Ryan Manion has one speed…GO!

It’s pouring rain as the photographer and I run through the cobbled streets of Philadelphia. You can see it in the locals’ faces and the Colonial buildings still standing strong just blocks from the Liberty Bell that this city is tough. For over 300 years, Philly has been the home of patriots, presidents and even movie characters such as Rocky Balboa. Yet, there is one theme that continues to define Philadelphians. No matter how much they struggle, get kicked around or scarred, there will be a moment when they rise, gritty and determined, and GO on with their mission.


We arrive at the Union League, a brick and brownstone club, which has supported the military and veterans since 1862. As we pass two statues of soldiers marching off to war, I receive a text, “Finishing a board meeting. Use the side entrance. You won’t be allowed in unless you are in a jacket. Which I assume you are not.” The subject of our next interview is 100% correct and I instantly know we are in the place where Ryan Manion and her team hold court each December.

Ryan is the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, co-author of the Knock at the Door, mother, Gold Star sister and marathon runner. She’s busy. Always on the go, and the second week of December is her Super Bowl.

The night before our interview, she led the annual If Not Me, Then Who gala, which honors fallen heroes, veterans, active-duty troops and military families. Today, she’s leading the TMF board meeting, which includes current CEOs and former generals. Tomorrow, she’ll go on Fox Sports to represent TMF at the Army-Navy game where Navy will take home the win (but we don’t know that yet). Ryan has thankfully given us thirty minutes of her downtime for a one-on-one interview which she tells me is “no big deal” after I thank her again.

The Travis Manion Foundation is a big deal. The non-profit, which started as a small family effort, is now an organization that coordinates thousands of community volunteers across the nation. Ryan, who lost her brother, 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion, and her team are driven by the mission to “empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.”

The most amazing thing about Ryan Manion is not only all that she and her team have accomplished since 2007 but the fact that she is still going, and going strong. Ryan, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, is a former smoker who now runs marathons and does ruck marches. She talks fast and moves faster. “Come on, let’s GO,” she tells us when we see her. I follow, knowing without a doubt that Ryan is the next generation of tough as nails leader that Philly is known for.

WATM: How’s your Army-Navy week going?

Ryan’s phone rings. It’s a family call. She answers while we start taking photos. Then she’s back.

Ryan Manion: It’s been a little heavy this week. We started off Tuesday with a meeting for all our senior TMF leadership, which we did for the first time. They flew in from all over the country. Then Tuesday night, we had a huge book event here in Philly, and my son has pneumonia.

WATM: OMG, that is a lot.

Ryan: He’s fine. Home with the family. He had a cold for three days. It didn’t even seem like a big cold. You know, it’s been kind of crazy.

WATM: How do you manage everything on your plate?

Ryan: I love what I do, and I get to work on wonderful things. We’ve been working on a project for tomorrow’s Army-Navy Game. We’re bringing 30 wounded warriors and their families to meet the President during the third quarter.

WATM: Wow, that is amazing. Did you ever see yourself doing this kind of work? Especially leading an organization such as the Travis Manion Foundation?

Ryan: Today, one of our board members said it best, “It all just gets back to Travis, saying, if not me, then who?” And that kind of simplified the journey for me. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God. I’m sitting here with all these people because of my brother.’

WATM: You and your family established the organization as a way to carry on Travis’s legacy. Does it still feel that way a decade later?

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Ryan and her brother Travis at the Army-Navy Game.

Ryan: Last night, somebody at the gala who was a Marine that served with Travis came up to me and said, “You know, I’ve been at this gala for eight years now, and every year gets better and better. It’s unbelievable. But I got to tell you, I was sitting there thinking, these people don’t know who Travis Manion was.”

WATM: How did that make you feel?

Ryan: Travis is my personal driver, but this organization is bigger than one person. I am excited for so many to see the fruits of what he stood for through this organization.

WATM: If Not Me, Then Who?

Ryan: Exactly. My brother wrote those words before he deployed to Iraq, and they represent the character, leadership and selfless service that is the backbone of all our programs. Whether it is our strength-building seminars, expeditions, fitness events or service projects, we unite our volunteers, both civilian and veteran, in the common cause to better their communities by living the mantra of “If Not Me, Then Who…”

WATM: What do you think draws people to the foundation and your work?

Ryan: It’s funny because our board was just asking me the same thing.

WATM: And?

Ryan: I have to tell you, the thing about our organization is that it’s like the feeling you get when you’re around your family. It started out as a family affair. It was a small family that was grieving the loss of their loved one. But even as we’ve grown, it doesn’t matter what event you’re at or how many show up. You know, tomorrow there will be a thousand people at our tailgate, everyone’s going to feel like they’re part of a team, a family.

WATM: Was that the plan from the beginning?

Ryan laughs. I’ve been to a few TMF tailgates, and we both know the answer.

Ryan: I can’t articulate in words why that is. But you’ve been around it, you see it, and I don’t know what drives that. We come from a very different place from a lot of other traditional veterans service organizations, especially those in the post 9/11 world. I think they’re all doing great work. They came with an idea, “Ok, this is the problem, and this is how we’re going to solve it.”

We came with, “I just lost my brother, my mom and dad just lost their son. And we want to make sure that we continue his legacy.” So when you come at it from that place, there’s no chance that it’s gonna be anything but super authentic in what you’re doing. Since then, it’s been, “Ok, we’re going to do this. Oh, people are into it. Ok? Let’s keep doing it. Oh, wow. We’re really doing something here now.” That’s the plan.

Ryan smiles as I point to her new book, The Knock At the Door.

11 weapons used by Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators

Ryan Manion with a copy of her book, The Knock at the Door.

WATM: So let’s talk about the book. First of all, congratulations.

Ryan: Thank you. Yes, it’s pretty awesome.

WATM: What’s the feedback you’re getting so far?

Ryan: The feedback has been tremendous. We’ve found that this book, to some degree, breaks down the wedge between the civilian and military worlds because everyone receives some type of knock at the door. We all have challenges that we weren’t expecting to appear in our lives.

The Knock At the Door shows what a military family goes through when they lose someone. But this story doesn’t end there. Our story just begins there. So it’s set in a much different context. The Knock At the Door empowered me and my co-authors into another chapter of our lives. We all had different journeys from shock to finding purpose.

WATM: In the book, you describe how physical fitness helped you find focus. Specifically moving from smoking to running the Marine Corps Marathon?

Ryan: I totally recognize the extreme of it all. Physical fitness is huge both in general and in times of grief. It was truly eye-opening when I discovered the effect it had on my daily psyche. I mean, people say, exercise is a little bit of a drug and they’re right. That’s why I had to write about my physical journey alongside my emotional one. I went through some dark times after I lost my brother. I struggled with anxiety and depression and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. It was realization that I was not ok that helped me to pick up the pieces.

WATM: Is there anything that people are really responding to or the people are coming to you afterwards and saying, I love this. That you’re finding people are really resonating with?

Ryan: I think for me, people were surprised about how vulnerable I was in the book. You know, I’ve been given the opportunity to run a veteran serving organization that requires a lot of professional appearances and public speaking. People get to meet me as the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, but this book showed a whole different side of me.

WATM: Was it scary to be that vulnerable and open?

Ryan: Yes. You know, the other thing that’s been really great about the book is the response from the Gold Star community. If you would have asked me before I wrote, what’s your biggest fear? It would be that like the Gold Star community doesn’t connect with this. And they have.

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Ryan with her TMF GORUCK.

WATM: What do you think Travis would say about all of this?

Ryan: I don’t know what Travis would be doing now. I don’t know if he’d still be in the Marine Corps, if he’d be out and working in corporate America or doing something less traditional. I have no idea. But I know that he would be involved in this world. He would not be the veteran that takes off the uniform, goes away and is unconnected to what’s happening in their community. But would I be connected to this world? Probably not, because my brother would have been. I think he would be proud that I am involved and active with the Travis Manion Foundation, but he would have hated that it’s named after him.

WATM: I think I can understand that.

Ryan: We were years into this thing, and my dad’s like, “I just feel like I don’t think Travis would like that his name is everywhere. It’s nameless, maybe we should change the name?” And my response was something like, “Dad, you’re kidding. We’re in too deep. Travis’s name represents this generation.” And so, that’s my rebuttal. I think Travis would be super proud of what’s happening in his name.

WATM: Is there anything that you’re looking forward to in 2020? Maybe something you’re scared about or something we should keep on our radar?

Ryan: The next big thing I’m doing is going to Puerto Rico at the end of January for one of our service expeditions. We have eight or nine of these service expeditions a year, but this one is special. I will be traveling with a Marine who was with Travis when he was killed. We will be doing rehab projects for veterans’ homes effected by the hurricane a couple of years ago. I am looking forward to that.

WATM: Will you keep us updated on the trip?

Ryan: Of course.

WATM: Last question. Who do you think will win the Army-Navy Game tomorrow?

Ryan: Navy all the way. (Turns out she was right)

For more information on Ryan Manion or the Travis Manion Foundation visit www.travismanion.org.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

New era of warfare on brink as Army robots take on more advanced obstacles

Some interesting implications are on the line with the success of new military robots. The U.S. Army has been experimenting with robots in hopes of creating a more competent unmanned instrument for battle. The robots took on a variety of complex tasks, each associated with a real-world battlefield application—like sorting through minefields and clearing anti-tank trenches. Not only were the robots successful, but they actually began to complete the tasks faster with each successive attempt. The exercises took place at Yakima Air Base (WA).


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Some military robots have mundane uses like these LS3 “robot mules” designed to carry heavy gear and cargo.

The Yakima Air Base exercises were spearheaded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Fursman and Capt. Nichole Rotte of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion. The team was tasked with creating complicated breach obstacles (within the context of “a realistic and plausible scenario”) for the robots to overcome.

According to Defense News, these breaches included: anti-tank trenches, minefields, and razor wire. The robots also had to breach all of the obstacles while under fire while paving the way for a counterattack into enemy lines.

The exercise was also monitored by a quadcopter, deployed under the watch of the Alabama National Guard, to monitor the use of any chemical, nuclear, or biological agents used. Another separate unit, using an unmanned Polaris MRZR vehicle, shrouded the breach with a smokescreen that clouded the field and heavily impaired (human) vision.

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A “battlefield extraction assist” bot prototype designed to transport wounded soldiers.

At the very start of the breach, the U.S. Army robots used two NGCVs to lay down clear lines of suppression fire at the “enemy.” In a bizarre backward glimpse into the future of warfare, a humvee controlling yet another humvee—was equipped with a 7.62mm gun. This robot-meta suppression fire humvee (I’m sure the Army will come up with another alphabet soup acronym for these in the coming years) was accompanied by an M113 armored personnel carrier (actually controlled by a human).

While the “enemy” was hunkered down by suppression fire, two ABVs (assault breacher vehicles) took on the actual obstacles laid out by Fursman and Rotte. These ABVs were controlled by the Marines Corps (as it is quickly becoming apparent that manned robots should be clarified).

The initial ABV led the way and cleared a safe path through the minefield—leaving stakes in the ground to highlight a path of safety through the exercise for the other ABV.

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Could we see robot infantry within the decade?

The second ABV used a blade to fill a tank trench and, once filled, led a clean path for allied forces to form an assault on the “enemy.”

According to Defense News, via Rotte, the initial breach exercise took “two and a half hours,” but the subsequent attempt took only two hours. The second, faster, attempt matches the same time frame it would take human soldiers to complete the same task. This leads us to the important question: are we on the brink of seeing robotic warfare replace boots on the ground?

The answer lies only in how quickly these machines can begin to operate efficiently and be productive on a mass scale. There were some hangups in the exercise, such as latency issues (lag, as gamers would call it), camera feed problems, and other hiccups. Reports indicate that none of these posed too much of an issue.

The unmanned machines were easy to control. Finding human soldiers to operate the machines isn’t necessarily a problem, as the machines in this exercise were all operated with a standard Xbox One controller—seeing as most members of the armed forces have trained themselves with the intricacies of an Xbox controller in their spare time.

So as unmanned operations become simultaneously more efficient logistically, and more simple practically—the idea of taking boots off the ground in place of robots isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. If these exercises are any indication of the nearing of that all-important when—then we are well on our way to seeing a new era of battle in which casualties will be measured in gears and bolts.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Three decades later: Was the Gulf War worth it?

Twenty-nine years ago, on Jan. 16, 1991, the United States led the massive offensive coalition Operation Desert Storm, during the Persian Gulf War. The forces of this coalition were made up of 32 different countries, all combining efforts to stop and remove Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait the year prior.


There were over 900,000 coalition troops; 540,000 of them were American.

The U.S. began its invasion with air attacks that would decimate Iraq’s air defenses, taking out communications, weapons and oil refineries. Then, a covert and classified bombing mission began, known as Operation Senior Surprise. Its airmen were known as the Secret Squirrels.

Seven B-52G Stratofortresses took off from Barksdale Air Force Base in La., flying around 14,000 round-trip miles to launch 35 missiles at strategic locations in Iraq. They would require air refueling over the Atlantic, but all made it home safely. At the time, it was a world record for the longest bombing mission.

The world watched live on TV with CNN broadcasting around-the-clock coverage. General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell would go on to become household names in America as citizens watched the war unfold in real-time.

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The battle would intensify when the massive U.S. led ground offense began. Troops on foot would begin the “100-hour ground battle” on Feb. 24, 1991. This attack would lead to a liberated Kuwait in just under four days.

On Feb. 28, 1991, a cease-fire was officially declared, and Iraq pledged to honor future peace terms. One of the terms was that Saddam Hussein would get rid of all weapons of mass destruction. He would go on to refuse weapons inspectors admittance.

The Gulf War was a test in American diplomacy, with President Bush remembering the lessons of the Cold War. The war was backed by public and congressional support when that diplomacy failed. President Bush appeared to struggle greatly over going to war, even writing a letter to his children on New Year’s Eve of 1990 about the decision. It would go on to become the end of this kind of warfare and the beginning of a new era.

The United States lost 382 troops in the Gulf War, and the Department of Defense estimated that it cost the United States billion dollars. The costs to those who served during the conflict were far greater.

Troops returning from the gulf war began getting sick; 250,000 of them.

The illness was called Gulf War Syndrome. A very wide range of chronic symptoms have been reported, including cognitive problems, respiratory disorders, muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia, rashes and digestive problems. The troops were exposed to dangerous pesticides, and the pills given to them to protect against nerve agents would be proven to be part of the cause.

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The intent of the United States getting involved in the middle east conflict was to prevent Saddam Hussein from gaining control of Kuwait’s oil, which would have led him to having 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves. This would have greatly impacted not just the United States, but many other countries who depend on oil for their way of life. However, it led to the U.S. becoming even more entangled in foreign politics, which would lead to more war, not less.

The Gulf War didn’t prevent the uprisings in Iraq, and we would end up right back there a decade later, losing another 6,967 troops as of 2019. This time we would attack without congressional approval and the support of the other surrounding Arab nations. We would not have the U.N. Resolution in our pocket or local support.

Nineteen years later, we are still at war. The lessons in the Persian Gulf War seem to have been forgotten. Twenty-nine years after the cease-fire was declared, it begs the question – was it worth it?

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Butcher of of Bosnia’ sentenced to life in prison for genocide

The guilty verdict of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” brought the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) a step closer to its closure, but for many of his victims, it did little to ease the pain.


The 75-year-old former Bosnian Serb general was sentenced on November 22 to life imprisonment after being found guilty on 10 of 11 charges, including one guilty verdict of genocide, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the bloody 1992-95 conflict that tore the former Yugoslavia apart.

Victims both outside the court, which winds down at the end of this year, and back in Bosnia-Herzegovina applauded the result, even though some felt that justice could never be served for the man responsible for thousands of deaths during the conflict.

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Bosnian Serb political and military leaders Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić are indicted for genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995. (Image UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Flickr)

“None of us here expected anything else. But there is something I am not satisfied with. I am not satisfied with the verdict that [Ratko Mladic] is not guilty in Count One of the indictment [related specifically to genocide in Bosnian towns and villages],” said Munir Habibovic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre, as she stood in the Potocari cemetery and memorial center just outside Srebrenica.

Mladic, who insisted he was innocent of all of the charges, had managed to escape prosecution for 16 years until his arrest in Serbia in May 2011 and extradition to The Hague.

A survivor of multiple strokes, Mladic was visibly frail when the trial began in 2012. During the rendering of the verdict, his lawyers asked for a halt in the proceedings due to the accused’s high blood pressure.

After the request was denied, a visibly agitated Mladic, who defiantly opened the trial by saying, “I want my enemies, and there are many, to drop dead because I am still alive,” rose in the dock and began shouting at the court that he didn’t feel well before being removed from the room.

Moments later, Mladic was found guilty of commanding forces responsible for crimes including the worst atrocities of the war: the deadly three-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. He was found not guilty of genocide in some other Bosnian towns and villages.

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Ratko Mladić, former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, at his trial judgement at the ICTY. (Image UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Flickr)

“I’m partially satisfied. It’s more than for Karadzic. But they didn’t find him guilty for the accusation of genocide in some villages,” said Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association.

The crimes committed rank among the “most heinous known to humankind,” and include genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity, Presiding Judge Alphons Orie said in reading out a summary of the judgment.

“He deserves much more severe punishment,” said one survivor, who lost her children and husband, in a live interview with the BBC outside The Hague-based court after the verdict was handed down.

“He needs to be tortured,” she said. “He’ll be fine in prison, but he needs to suffer like our children did.”

Given the gravity of the offenses, Mladic’s case became one of the highest-profile war crimes trials since the Nuremberg trials of Germany’s Nazi leadership after World War II.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the conviction a “momentous victory for justice.”

“Mladic is the epitome of evil, and the prosecution of Mladic is the epitome of what international justice is all about,” Zeid said in a statement.

Read More: Why the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ faces a life sentence for war crimes

“Today’s verdict is a warning to the perpetrators of such crimes that they will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take.”

Mladic’s lawyer and his son both said the verdict would be appealed and that Mladic has been denied his “basic human rights” by not being allowed to see doctors of his own choice.

The reaction in Serbia was mixed, in a country that is trying to move toward the European Union but still has strong nationalist tendencies.

President Aleksandar Vucic urged his compatriots to look to the future rather than “suffocating in tears of the past.”

In the small Serbian village of Lazarevo, where Mladic was finally apprehended, residents dismissed a court they said has sought to solely blame Serbs for the crimes committed during the Yugoslav conflict.

The AP quoted villager Igor Topolic as saying he was “horrified and saddened” by the verdict and called Mladic “a Serbian national hero.”

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22 November 2017 – Ratko Mladić, former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, at his trial judgement at the ICTY. (Image UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Flickr)

With the Mladic verdict rendered, the ICTY next week will make its ruling on the appeals of former Bosnian Croat leader Jadranko Prlic and five other Bosnian Croats.

Prlic, now 57, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of murdering and deporting Muslims during the war.

After that, the ICTY will close its doors.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, MICT, will take over the remaining cases along with domestic courts, particularly the Bosnian state court.

Lists

23 incredible photos that capture US Navy’s intense year

2017 was an unsurprisingly eventful year for the US Navy.


New ships, such as the USS Washington and USS Gerald R. Ford, were commissioned. The USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain were involved in collisions. Hurricane victims in the mainland U.S. and Puerto Rico were aided. The terrorist group ISIS and Syrian forces were hit with cruise-missile strikes.

See More: Here are the best military photos for the week of December 9th

These are just a few of the developments and events. With 2017 coming to a close, we rounded up some of the best Navy photos taken this year that highlight its missions and duties.

Take a look:

23. Sailors create snow angels on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on Jan. 7 after returning home from a deployment.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

22. The USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea on Jan. 22 while supporting security efforts in the region.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

21. A member of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 traverses a mud-filled pit while participating in the endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, on Feb. 17.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

20. The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island transits the Arabian Sea on March 3.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

19. An electrician’s mate fireman and damage controlman practice pipe-patching drills during a damage-control training team exercise on the flight deck of the USS Barry on March 5.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

18. Members of the Leap Frogs, a U.S. Navy parachute team, jump out of a C-130 Hercules during a skydiving demonstration above Biloxi High School in Mississippi on April 6.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

17. Sailors assigned to Underwater Construction Team 2 conduct a pier inspection in Apra Harbor, Guam, on June 13.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

16. A medium-range ballistic-missile target is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. It was successfully intercepted by SM-6 missiles fired from the USS John Paul Jones on Aug. 29.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

15. A Naval aircrewman rescues two dogs at Houston’s Pine Forest Elementary School, a shelter that required evacuation after floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey reached its grounds on Aug. 31.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

14. The USS Oscar Austin fires its Mark 45 5-inch gun during a live-fire exercise in the Arctic Circle on Sept. 12.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

13. A sailor interacts with students during a community engagement event at Lumut Naval Base in Malaysia on Sept. 20.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

12. A Naval aircrewman comforts a Puerto Rican evacuee following the landfall of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 25.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

11. Sailors bring the USS Washington to life during the commissioning ceremony for the Virginia-class attack submarine at Naval Station Norfolk on Oct. 7.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

10. US Navy search-and-rescue swimmers assigned to the USS Howard save a loggerhead sea turtle entangled in a half-sunken fishing boat on Oct. 16.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

9. Seabees fill a crater using a “super sack” during a rapid airfield damage repair exercise on Oct. 17.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

8. A sailor assigned to the USS Wasp reunites with her grandma (right) and aunt during a family assessment in Puerto Rico on Oct. 25 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

7. Sailors man the rails of the USS Oscar Austin as the ship departs Oslo, Norway, following a port visit on Oct. 31.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

6. The USS Nimitz, USS Ronald Reagan, and USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carriers and their strike groups in the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 12.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

5. A sailor signals the launch of an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the flight deck of the USS Reagan on Nov. 18.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

4. Airmen install a bleed air valve on an F/A-18C Hornet in the hangar bay of the USS Roosevelt on Dec. 4.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

3. A sailor returning home from a deployment aboard the USS Nimitz in support of Operation Inherent Resolve kisses his wife on Dec. 10.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

2. A US Navy diver performs underwater cutting operations using a Broco torch on a mooring system in Guam on Dec. 12.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

1. The new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier transits the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 13.

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(Photo from U.S. Navy)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Dover Fisher House marks decade of providing refuge for families of the fallen

When Toni Gross stood at the entrance of the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, she had no idea what to expect.

The previous hours were a blur, filled with grief and disbelief. It was July 2011, and she and her husband and daughter learned that Army Cpl. Frank Gross, their only son and brother, had been killed by an IED while serving in Afghanistan.


He was 25. And just like that, a mere few weeks into deployment, he was gone.

“We were just numb,” Toni Gross said.

The day after learning of Frank’s death, the Grosses traveled from Oldsmar, Florida to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, expecting to stay at “some place like a Hampton Inn” for the dignified transfer of Frank’s body. But instead, just across the street from the runway, they spent 24 hours at the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen — a house created by Fisher House Foundation specifically for loved ones of those who have fallen through combat.

“It was a wonderfully comforting experience, and everything we could possibly think of— all of our needs, food, everything — was taken care of,” Toni Gross said. “We were able to spend time focusing on why we were there: grieving the loss of our son.”

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That’s exactly what the chairman and CEO of Fisher House wants to hear. Ken Fisher is a third-generation leader of one of America’s most successful family-owned real estate development and management companies, but he is also expressly passionate about honoring veterans while assisting their families.

The foundation offers several programs to support military families through critical times, like the Hero Miles program and a scholarship program for military children, spouses, and children of fallen and disabled veterans. In 2019 alone, more than 32,000 families were served, according to its website.

There are 87 Fisher Houses located on 25 military installations and 38 VA medical centers, with several more in the works. Run by the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., each Fisher House provides free lodging for military families whose loved ones are receiving medical treatment nearby.

The Fisher House at Dover, however, is special for many reasons, Fisher says, because “it was built to honor the ultimate sacrifices of those who wear the uniform.”

Those who stay there aren’t waiting for a recovery but a goodbye to their airman, soldier, Marine, sailor or Coastie.

“I think the Fisher House at Dover does more than just provide lodging,” Fisher said. “It’s important that these families who have made the ultimate sacrifice understand that there are Americans that are very grateful.”

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The Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Photo Roland Balik.

Built in just a few months in 2010, the Fisher House at Dover is equipped with nine guest suites that have seen approximately 3,700 guests since its opening. The average length of stay is 24 to 48 hours, with a typical family consists of six to 10 members.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Johnson watches over each one. As house manager, it’s her job to make sure each guest has every need — and every want —taken care of.

One family with small children, for example, stayed at the house over Halloween. Staff members purchased costumes and took them trick-or-treating. Another time, they cooked a traditional holiday dinner for a family receiving their loved one’s body over Christmas.

“[These families] are experiencing a very difficult point in their lives, and grieving comes in different ways, so we make sure the Fisher House staff members takes care of those families,” Johnson said. “Giving them the care that they need and providing them with any comfort required.”

Toni Gross’ experience with staff members made such an impact that she now volunteers regularly at a Fisher House in Florida. Similarly, Ken Fisher, whose 87-year-old father served in the Korean War, calls the houses his “passion.”

“The House at Dover is particularly relevant as we approach Memorial Day, even while we’re in the grip of a pandemic,” he said. “In the end, we can never ever forget what has been done, what has been given to us, this freedom. That what we hold most dear above everything else — that came at a cost.”

And for families who have experienced that cost, like Toni Gross, it is “comforting” to have a place of refuge during such a difficult time.

“My family and I are grateful to the Fisher House Foundation for our stay at Dover Air Force Base. While it was a solemn time, it was comforting to know that the staff there all understood why we were there and were able to accommodate us during our darkest hours,” Gross said.

Visit https://fisherhouse.org/programs/houses/house-locations/delaware-fisher-house-for-families-of-the-fallen/ to learn more about Fisher House programs and services.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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