3 ways Trump's travel ban is impacting the military - We Are The Mighty
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3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

As debate continues on the impact of President Trump’s executive order which halted the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, and placed a temporary 120-day ban on people coming from seven Muslim-majority countries that President Obama listed as “concerning” in 2015, are the ways the U.S. military has been affected.


Also read: How SEALs were caught in ‘ferocious’ firefight during Yemen counter-terrorism raid

Iraqi pilots training in Arizona

Members of Arizona’s Air National Guard have been working with Iraqi pilots since 2012 to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The program was expected to continue through at least 2020, according to a Department of Defense press release when the program began. Under Trump’s travel pause, no more Iraqi pilots will be able to enter the country.

Arizona Sen. John McCain is working to exempt Iraqi pilots from the executive order, and released a joint statement with fellow Rep. Sen. Lindsey Graham over the weekend.

“At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies,” the statement read. “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred.”

Interpreters for US troops stuck in limbo

Many combat veterans who worked with interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan are angry that the travel ban has compromised the safety of those who they say were instrumental in keeping them safe during combat deployments.

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, sent a letter signed by other members of congress who also served overseas, urging Trump to allow interpreters who had been granted passage to the U.S. to be allowed in.

“Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives,” the letter said.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist attached to Troop A, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, advises Iraqi Army soldiers with the 73rd Brigade, 15th Division, on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

Increased tensions with countries in the Middle East

Several allies in the Middle East sent cables to the White House on Monday, warning that the ban could be used as a propaganda tool for ISIS, and make the area more dangers for U.S. troops and coalition forces.

Qatar was the most critical of the executive order, with a senior official telling U.S. diplomats, “You could not have given our adversaries better propaganda material,” according to CBS News. He mentioned that despite the beginning decline of ISIS, “The timing of this has given the group a lifeline.”

In an interview with CBS, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell echoed the sentiments, saying, “It’s playing right into the ISIS narrative. ISIS has not said anything about this yet, but people around ISIS, who amplify its message, are talking about it, and they are saying, ‘See? We told you, this is a war against Islam.’ So this is going to be a recruitment boon for ISIS.

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These 9 TV shows and films are ‘6 Certified’ because they get it right for vets

Got Your 6 has unveiled the latest round of “6 Certified” projects, recognizing film and television programs that work to normalize the depiction of veterans.


Programs to receive the honor of being “6 Certified” include the feature film “Max,” episodes of “Fargo,” “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” “Marvel’s Daredevil,” “Saturday Night Live,” USA Network’s forthcoming “Shooter,” and “West Texas Investors Club,” among others.

This third round of projects to receive “6 Certified” status was discussed onstage Sunday at an ATX Television Festival panel for NBC’s “The Night Shift.” This panel examined the power of television to shift public perception, with panelists including the cast and creators of “The Night Shift” and Got Your 6’s executive director Bill Rausch. “The Night Shift” was a part of Got Your 6’s inaugural round of projects to be “6 Certified.”

“With ‘6 Certified,’ we are celebrating the content creators who are accurately and responsibly portraying our nation’s veterans,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6. “Transitioning out of the military can be difficult; however, every veteran returning home is a civic asset, ready to lead a resurgence of community, and these latest projects to be ‘6 Certified’ truly embody this narrative.”

Got Your 6 announced the following projects to be awarded with “6 Certified” status:

1. “Day One”

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

This Oscar-nominated short film was created by soldier-turned filmmaker Henry Hughes who wrote the film based on his own experiences working alongside a female Afghan translator. The piece was written and directed by a veteran, and accurately portrays the complexities of military service. Henry Hughes, Marie Cantin, Mitchell Sandler, Michael Steiner

2. “Fargo” (Season 2, Episode 2)

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

This episode of the American crime series presents two multidimensional, multigenerational veteran characters through the two officers working to investigate a series of murders and related crimes. MGM Television, FX Productions, 26 Keys Productions

3. “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” (Season 2, Episode 2)

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

The veterans of Got Your 6 were used as a resource and were invited into the writers’ room of this romantic comedy series, which led to the integration of veteran content in this episode to add additional depth to various characters on the show. Universal Cable Productions, Bravo Media

4. “Live to Tell” (Season 1, Episode 1)

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

Created by Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor”) and his non-scripted shingle Film 45, this military docuseries gives viewers a personal, intimate and revealing look into recent U.S. Special Operations Forces missions, as told by those who experienced the front lines of the ongoing War on Terror. Film 45, HISTORY

5. “Marvel’s Daredevil” (Season 2, Episode 7)

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

This episode of the Netflix original series responsibly and accurately portrays veterans via the character of Frank Castle, The Punisher, who insists that his legal representation not perpetuate veteran stereotypes of PTSD in order to defend his actions. ABC Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Netflix

6. “Max”

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

This feature film is focused on themes of service and was co-written by a military veteran, who develops a realistic and meaningful depiction of veterans through the lead veteran character. MGM, Sunswept Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures

7. “Saturday Night Live: Adam Driver” (Season 41, Episode 10)

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

This episode of the iconic comedy show begins with host Adam Driver, who touches on his military service before becoming an actor. This brief and comedic celebration of the veteran experience is a realistic depiction of the wider veteran narrative. NBC, Broadway Video, SNL Studios 

8. “Shooter” (Season 1, Episode 1)

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

This upcoming American drama series is based on the best-selling novel “Point of Impact” by Stephen Hunter and the 2007 Paramount film starring Mark Wahlberg. The series, starring Ryan Phillippe, follows the courageous journey of Bob Lee Swagger, a highly-decorated ex-marine sniper who is coaxed back into action after a period of self-imposed exile when he receives intelligence of an attempt to assassinate the President. Premiering Tuesday, July 19 at 10/9c on USA Network, “Shooter” centers around a veteran utilizing his military training to wage good. Universal Cable Productions, Paramount Studios, USA Network

9. “West Texas Investors Club” (Season 1, Episode 7)

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

In this episode of the reality business series, investors and businessmen Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam help a budding entrepreneur realize that hiring skilled veterans and integrating them into their model will help grow his business, bucking negative stereotypes and celebrating a narrative that views veterans as leaders and civic assets. The Company, CNBC

“Industry leaders and content creators have the unique ability to shift perceptions and create conversations in popular culture,” said Got Your 6 review committee member Bruce Cohen, producer of “American Beauty” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” “By moving away from inaccurate, stereotypical depictions of veterans, creators can help foster better understanding between the veteran and civilian communities.”

“It’s been humbling to watch the trajectory of ‘6 Certified’ as it grows into the dynamic program we all knew it could be,” said Charlie Ebersol, chairman and founder of The Company. “Being able to recognize content and creators from all different networks and studios is one of many things we in entertainment can do to help shift public perception of today’s veterans. It’s really exciting to see the diversity of programming in this slate of projects while still being connected and sharing a common goal.”

Launched in January 2015 with support from the First Lady Michelle Obama, the “6 Certified” program was created to encourage the entertainment industry and content creators to choose asset-focused narratives when telling veteran stories, and to challenge the stereotypical depictions of veterans as broken heroes.

To become “6 Certified,” a project must contain a representative and balanced depiction of veterans and fulfill at least one of the following pledges:

  • Do your homework – Research or consult with real veterans, family members, or subject matter experts in an effort to create accurate representations
  • Cast a veteran – Hire a veteran actor to play a substantial role
  • Hire a veteran writer – Employ a veteran writer to contribute to the narrative
  • Portray a veteran character – Develop a multi-dimensional veteran character
  • Tell a veteran story – Develop a narrative with meaningful and accurate veteran themes
  • Use veterans as resources on set or in writers’ rooms – Have veterans present for consultation throughout the filmmaking process

After the project has met the requirements for certification, it may be submitted by a studio or production company once the project enters post-production. After the submission is complete, the project will be evaluated by the “6 Certified” Review Committee; a group of subject matter experts who review all submissions and grant “6 Certified” status. The current members of the “6 Certified” Review Committee are Rajiv Chandrasekaran, journalist and author; Bruce Cohen, producer of “American Beauty” and “Silver Linings Playbook”; Greg Silverman, president, creative development and worldwide production, Warner Bros. Pictures; Charlie Ebersol, chairman and founder of The Company; Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6; Laura Law-Millet, Army veteran and Chief Operations Officer at the GI Film Group; and Major General (Ret) Sharon K.G. Dunbar, vice president, human resources, General Dynamics Mission Systems. Additional information on certification is available at http://www.gotyour6.org/6-certified/.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is very sorry about the sky dick

Officials at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island are apologizing after photos of a skydrawing of male genitalia surfaced on the internet.


The image appeared in the sky over the town of Omak, where it was noticed by residents on the ground.

 

“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the Navy said in a statement to KREM in Washington.

 

The news station also reached out to the Federal Aviation Authority, where officials stated that the skydrawings posed no safety issues, and added that they could not be the “morality police.”

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First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.


Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
FILE – Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.

“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”

Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.

Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.

“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.

Female infantry officers will leave Fort Benning and go to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wesley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.

“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.

Griest and Haver are following the same path.

Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.

“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.

Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.

“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”

Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.

“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The freak accident that saved a carrier at Pearl Harbor

Most Americans know the story of Pearl Harbor, how the Japanese planes descended from the clouds and attacked ship after ship in the harbor, hitting the floating fortresses of battleship row, damaging drydocks, and killing more than 2,300 Americans. But the most coveted targets of the attack were the aircraft carriers thankfully absent. Except one was supposed to be there that morning with a future fleet admiral on board, and they were both saved by a freak accident at sea.


3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

The USS Shaw explodes on December 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy)

Vice Adm. William Halsey, Jr., was a tough and direct man. And in November 1941, he was given a top-secret mission to ferry 12 Marine F4F Hellcats to Wake Island under the cover of an exercise. Wake Island is closer to Japan than Hawaii, and Washington didn’t want Japan to know the Marines were being reinforced.

The mission was vital, but also dangerous. Halsey knew that Japan was considering war with the U.S., and he knew that Japan had a long history of beginning conflicts with sneak attacks. He was so certain that a war with Japan was coming, that he ordered his task force split into two pieces. The slower ships, including his three battleships, were sent to conduct the naval exercise.

Halsey took the carrier Enterprise, three heavy cruisers, and nine destroyers as “Task Force 8” to deliver the planes. And those 13 ships would proceed “under war conditions,” according to Battle Order No. 1, signed by the Enterprise captain but ordered by Halsey.

All torpedoes were given warheads, planes were armed with their full combat load, and gunners were prepared for combat. Halsey had checked, and there were no plans for allied or merchant shipping in his path, so he ordered his planes to sink any ship sighted and down any plane.

If Task Force 8 ran into a group of ships, they would assume they were Japanese and start the war themselves. That’s not hyperbole, according to Halsey after the war:

Comdr. William H. Buracker, brought [the orders] to me and asked incredulously, “Admiral, did you authorize this thing?”
“Yes.”
“Do you realize that this means war?”
“Yes.”
Bill protested, “Goddammit, Admiral, you can’t start a private war of your own! Who’s going to take the responsibility?”
I replied, “I’ll take it! If anything gets in my way, we’ll shoot first and argue afterwards.”
3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

The USS Enterprise sails in October 1941 with its scout planes overhead.

(U.S. Navy)

Equipped, prepared, and looking for a war, Halsey and his men sailed until they got within range of Wake Island on December 4, dispatched the Marines, and then headed for home.

There is an interesting question here about whether it would have been better if Task Force 8 had met with the Japanese force at sea. It would surely have been eradicated, sending all 13 ships to the bottom, likely with all hands. But it would have warned Pearl of the attack, and might have sunk a Japanese ship or two before going down. And, the Japanese fleet was ordered to return home if intercepted or spotted before December 5.

But the worst case scenario would’ve been if Task Force 8 returned to Pearl on its scheduled date, December 6. The plan was to send most of the sailors and pilots ashore for leave or pass, giving Japan one of its prime carrier targets as well as additional cruisers to sink during the December 7 attack.

Luckily, a fluke accident occurred at sea. A destroyer had split a seam in rough seas, delaying the Task Force 8 arrival until, at best, 7:30 on December 7. A further delay during refueling pushed the timeline further right to noon.

Because of that single, slightly odd occurrence, 13 less ships, including one of America’s most valuable carriers, were present when the Japanese attack began. And the Japanese pilots were looking for the three carriers assigned to Pearl. As Imperial Japanese Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida later described his arrival with the first wave:

I peered intently through my binoculars at the ships riding peacefully at anchor. One by one I counted them. Yes, the battleships were there all right, eight of them! But our last lingering hope of finding any carriers present was now gone. Not one was to be seen.
3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

USS Enterprise sailors watch as “scores” go up on a board detailing the ship and its pilots combat exploits.

(U.S. Navy)

And the Enterprise would go on to fight viciously for the U.S. in the war. Halsey spent December 7-8 looking for a fight. While it couldn’t make contact in those early moments of the war, it would find earn 20 battle stars in the fighting. It was instrumental to the victories at Midway, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte Gulf.

It suffered numerous strikes, but always returned to the fight. Its crew earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation. The ship, and much of the crew, survived the war. But the Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947.

Two great articles, linked above, were instrumental in writing this article. But a hat tip also goes out to Walter R. Borneman whose book The Admirals inspired this piece.

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How Easterseals helped this veteran build a life after service

This post is sponsored by Easterseals.


When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.

With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.

While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.

The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.

That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.

“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”

Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”

Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.

Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.

The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.

Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.

The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.

The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.

Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.

“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this Gunship turn a military parade into a real-life Benny Hill skit

It looks like a staged comedy skit, but apparently, an Indonesian Army Mi-35P gunship helicopter made an unanticipated low pass over goose-stepping Indonesian troops marching in review and things went wrong quickly. The results are worth a chuckle.

The amusing incident took place either in preparation for or during the Indonesian Military, or TNI, 74th anniversary military parade and air show at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in East Jakarta on Oct. 5, 2019.


While the rest of Indonesia’s military anniversary display was indeed impressive, this incident looks likely to steal the show. Possibly, the crew of an Indonesian Mi-35P Gunship was inspired by the tower fly-by scene in “Top Gun”, or, maybe they never saw it and failed to anticipate what would happen if they decided to “buzz the bandstand” like a rotary wing version of Maverick and Goose. The result was a little more than spilled coffee.

Indonesian Army #TNIAD Mi-35P during #TNI 74th anniversary parade

www.youtube.com

With several formations of marching units passing in review in front of a large banner and a covered bandstand, the helicopter crew makes a low and slow hovering pass overhead in review. Apparently, the signs and the tent hadn’t been tested for the rotor wash from the big gunship. The signs come down, the dust goes up, the bandstand collapses, and we can’t stop hitting the “replay” button to see the whole thing happen over again.

The entire episode didn’t appear to cause any injuries from the looks of it, except perhaps a bruise to the Indonesian attack helicopter community’s ego. Hopefully the entire affair was cleaned up quickly, the Mi-35P crew gained some altitude and flew away and the parade went on. Maybe the best takeaway in this video is, if you’re going to buzz the tents and a military parade, don’t do it in a big helicopter.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.

Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.


“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”

Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.

“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.

“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”

Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)

“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”

Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”

After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”

Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.

With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 celebrity veterans who went AWOL

There are few acts more shameful for a member of the military than deserting their unit, and going AWOL is the first step in that decision. We Are The Mighty has covered what can happen to a deserter before, and it’s not a fate any servicemember should willingly bring upon him or herself.


That still didn’t stop these 8 famous veterans from going Absent Without Leave, and they all faced the consequences.

8. Humphrey Bogart

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

Humphrey Bogart is an iconic Academy Award winning actor, but prior to his acting career, Bogie served in the United States Navy during the tail end of World War I. While most of the other cases on this list were clearly some level of intentional, in Bogart’s case, going AWOL seemed to be a complete accident.

The full story is unknown, but what’s on public record is that Bogart missed a connection to the USS Santa Olivia while in Europe, leading to him officially officially declared AWOL. He immediately turned himself in only to face a 3-day prison sentence.

It seems the misunderstanding was eventually cleared up, as he was honorably discharged in 1919.

7. Steve McQueen

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Screenshot of Steve McQueen in film The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).

Steve McQueen got his reputation as a tough guy and a rebel, and while going AWOL is no joke, it’s easy to picture him smiling and laughing while he did so. Legend has it the young Marine took a few extra days (or weeks) off while visiting his girlfriend on Weekend Leave.

When the King of Cool finally returned to his post, he was sentenced to 41 days in the brig for his insubordination. McQueen served his sentence and eventually returned to duty, ultimately using the benefits of the GI Bill to sponsor his acting education.

6. Jerry Garcia

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Garcia in the 1970s.

Some vets will probably be pissed to learn some of these celebs almost deserted, but could anyone be surprised to learn about Jerry Garcia? The Grateful Dead singer/guitarist/songwriter was one of the faces of the 60s countercultural movement, but before becoming a rock legend, he served in the United States Army upon his mother’s insistence.

Unsurprisingly, Garcia never took the Army particularly seriously, regularly missing roll call and going AWOL on several occasions. Ultimately he was generally discharged after less than a year of service.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
So much potential…

The only foreigner on the list, Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, where a year of military service was mandatory for teenage males. Even as a young man, the future Governor was far more focused on bodybuilding, and chose to go AWOL to hone his craft.

Also read: 15 celebrities we’d love to see in boot camp

Appropriately, the Terminator star secretly climbed over a wall to attend a competition, and wound up imprisoned in a military stockade for seven days for his crime.

4. Sinbad

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

All Sinbad ever wanted to do was play basketball, which is a pretty misguided reason to join the Air Force, but it didn’t stop the comedian from doing just that. After he failed to make the Air Force basketball team, Sinbad says he repeatedly went AWOL under the assumption the military either wouldn’t notice or would dishonorably discharge him, relieving him of his duty.

The Air Force never did, however, and eventually Sinbad stopped going AWOL and started appearing in Air Force Talent Shows, beginning his career in standup.

3. Nate Dogg

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

Nate Dogg was a rapper and G-funk singer popular for his collaborations with Warren G and Dr. Dre, amongst other rap superstars. When he was only 16, Nate Dogg dropped out of high school intending to join the United States Marine Corps. The “Regulate” singer served as an ammunitions specialist for three years before going AWOL and being dishonorably discharged.

2. C.J. Ramone

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
C.J. Ramone at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of Burning Down the House, a documentary about famous New York City rock and roll venue CBGB. (Image by David Shankbone)

The other celebrities on this list came to fame after they were discharged, but the final bassist of the legendary rock band the Ramones went AWOL in order to become famous. Serving in the Marine Corps, Ramone claims he was nearing his discharge, taking extended unapproved leaves to jam with the Ramones while they searched for a new bassist.

More: The 6 best WWE ‘Tribute to the Troops’ matches

After realizing he would get the gig, Ramone turned himself in and asked what he had to do to be discharged and allowed to play with the band. For going AWOL, Ramone had to serve five weeks in jail — but to his surprise, Johnny Ramone called him to tell him he still had a job if he wanted it.

1. Randy Orton

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
This is how Randy Orton stands at attention. (Image by Ken Penn)

Randy Orton is a 12-time WWE from Charleston SC, known professionally for his short temper and rebellious attitude. They say the best characters stem from real life, and Orton’s rebelliousness started as a member of the USMC, where he went AWOL twice, serving 38 days in jail.

Orton also disobeyed orders from a commanding officer and was dishonorably discharged. His poor record of service lead to controversy when WWE announced Orton would star in The Marine 3, a casting choice that got scrapped when his poor military record became public.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Celebrities and veterans teamed up to raise millions to fund mental healthcare for post-9/11 vets

On October 19, 2018, a crowd of over 700 guests gathered at Pier Sixty at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers for one reason: to help provide mental healthcare to the men and women who fight for our freedoms. During their 6th annual gala, Headstrong, an organization that provides cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free mental healthcare to post-9/11 military veterans, put on a fun-filled event — and raised over $2 million in the process.


Headstrong is making a huge impact on the veteran community.

“We have served over 750 veterans over 16,000 therapy sessions by 150 best-in-class clinicians in 23 cities across the country. All through private donations. Simply incredible,” said Army veteran and Headstrong Executive Director Joe Quinn.

During the event, three veterans seeking treatment through Headstrong, Amanda Burrill, Derek Coy and James Byler, opened up about their struggles and successes in finding effective mental healthcare. Their stories inspired the hundreds in attendance.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

Left to Right: Joe Quinn, Executive Director of the Headstrong Project; Derek Coy; Amanda Burrill; James Byler

Despite the seriousness of the organization’s goals, the night wasn’t without a good dose of levity — after all, it was more than a fundraiser, it was a celebration. World War II veteran and former POW, Ewing Miller, was celebrating his 95th birthday — and he did so by being served cake by actor Jake Gyllenhaal and late night host Seth Meyers.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

Left to Right: Seth Meyers, Host of ‘Late night with Seth Meyers’; Jake Gyllenhaal, Actor; Ewing Miller, WWII veteran; CNBC’s Kenny Polcari

Ewing Miller served from 1942 to 1945. On February 5, 1945, his aircraft was shot down — he was the sole survivor. He endured capture by the Germans until he was eventually freed by legendary military leader, General George S. Patton. Ewing earned several decorations during his time in service, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two clusters, the POW Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal.

When the lights finally dimmed on the evening’s celebrations, Headstrong had raised over million, which will be used to directly improve the lives of many post-9/11 veterans that are struggling with mental health — and it’s a cause worth championing. Marine veteran and Founder of Headstrong, Zach Iscol, said,

“When you put goal-oriented veterans together with top mental healthcare providers, they get better. The panic attacks go away, the anxiety goes away, the anger goes away, the self-medicating goes away…they blossom,”

To learn more about Headstrong, their initiatives, and what you can do to support veteran mental healthcare, visit their website.

Articles

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

Some people prefer holsters made from Kydex. Others would rather use a rig made from the skin of a dead beast (sad face).


Either way, a good holster isn’t just important to have; if you’re gonna go heeled, it’s vital. Sure, sometimes you don’t have a choice (like you poor bastards what hafta use Serpas), but when you do, you should make an informed, intelligent decision.

Here are three holsters released recently for your consideration. Note that this is a gear porn bulletin, a public service for those of you epistemophiliacs out there who want to Know Things. It’s neither a review nor a denunciation.

Grunts: Epistemophilia

1. Some Bawidamann Boltoron

First up, a couple sumthin’s from Bawidamann Shenanigans (Bawidamann Industries).

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Holsters with a side of sexy. (Photo: Bawidamann)

These Glock 17 holsters are open-bottomed (just how we like a bottom to be) and will fit a KKM compensated barrel.

They’re built from .09 Boltoron for Glocks with the X300U aboard; they’re for AIWB carry and utilize IWB (that’s “inside the waistband” for you youngins out there) and softloops or overhooks.

These are an adjustable depth, one piece design built with the seam on top of your slide. This is intended to keep the part that touches your inner leg rounded and smooth — because you don’t want it rough or scratchy unless you’re going for a mustache ride, right? These holsters are available for right or left-handed carry and are handmade in the distant reaches of faraway Ohio. They will fit G17s, G23s, or G34s, and they make use of the RCS (Raven Concealment Systems) claw to help minimize printing.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
We like our holsters like we like our drinks: stiff and bottomless. (Photo: Bawidamann)

Gonna carry a blaster? You’re going to want to gas it up. You can do that with one of Bawidamann Industry’s “Uber CC Mag carriers.”

Why? Because, as Andrew Bawidamann says (and we’re not making this up), “…you never know if the exotic woman on your bed is the high priced whore you asked for or an assassin.”

Finally, someone besides us gets it.

Find Bawidamann Industries holsters here and mag pouches for concealed carry are here.

Bawidamann Industries is on Instagram, @bawidamann_industries, but you’d do better to follow Andrew personally, @abawidamann. On Facebook at /bawidamannindustries/.

2. DeSantis Thigh Hide — Guns and Garters

Next up, the DeSantis Gunhide Thigh-Hide. We like this for all sorts of reasons, though admittedly none of our minions have actually tried one.

First, it can be used to carry concealed by women who otherwise might resort to off-body carry (not our preferred method at all, though off-body gun is admittedly better than no gun). Second, it has removable straps to attach it to a garter belt.

Garter. Belt.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
This is real life. (Photo: DeSantis Gunhide)

Now, this looks like it’d only be truly useful in a skirt- or kilt-wearing situation, and it’s possible it would present the same sort of problems a traditional thigh rig does (serious, it’s not the 90s anymore, quit using them unless you have to)…but it is something worth looking at.

The images on the DeSantis Gunhide website seem to indicate it’s intended for a cross-draw situation, which is less than ideal. If we wind up giving one a try we’ll see if that’s mandatory or an option. They make ’em for something like 30 different firearm manufacturers, usually with multiple models of each. The MSRP is $59.95

Meantime, for more information check out the product page right here or an informative video below:

Plus, Gene DeSantis dual-wields shotties…

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Pew pew. (Photo: DeSantis)

That’s enough reason to look at his gear right there. You can check out DeSantis on Facebook here if you’re so inclined, or follow them on Instagram: @desantisholster.

3. Comp-Tack L Line — Lasers and Lights

Lastly, we’ll take a quick look at the new L series holster from Comp-Tac. Coming to you in any color you want (as long as it’s black), the L-Line is a sorta universal: right- or left-handed, strong side modular pancake holster for pistols with WMLs attached.

The L-Line will fit (or so Comp-Tac tells us) blasters with Surefire XC-1, Crimson Trace 201/206, Lasermax Micro, and the TruGlo Micro Tac, but not (not) this thing:

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
She might need a little elbow grease before your next duel. (Photo: Breach Bang Clear)

More on that here, if you’re interested — it’s real.

The current L-Line (presumably they’re going to expand it) has adjustable tension and will will fit the Sig P250/320 9.40/45 all lengths and the XD 9/40/45 in all lengths, as well as an assortment of SW MPs and Walthers. It ships with multiple mounting clips (because if you’re like us you like to mount in all sorts of different ways) and is optics-ready. It’s also open at the bottom to accommodate a threaded barrel. MSRP is $79.99.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
We like it when the colors match. (Photo: Comp-Tac)

We don’t have much in the way of imagery. Their social media presence kinda sucks balls (like, 793 1/2 posts about Black Friday) and there wasn’t much presented in the press release that went out — don’t let that stop you from giving their gear a look, however.

They’re on Facebook and on Twitter as well (@comptac).

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. increases focus on Russia, but Europe is unimpressed

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the US and urged Europe to forge its own path forward in its collective defense against Russia, according to reports.

In a speech to French ambassadors, he warned that increased nationalism is driving the US to abandon its European allies.

“The partner with whom Europe built the new post-World War order appears to be turning its back on this shared history,” he said.


His remarks stand at odds against recent US military efforts to counter increased Russian activity. Sparked by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ newest National Defense Strategy, military officials are reinforcing their forces in Europe and the Atlantic.

Mattis’ new strategy maintains that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”

To comply with this shift, the US Navy in August 2018 relaunched its Second Fleet, a Cold War-era force known for its history of countering Soviet threats in the Atlantic. Its revitalization, coupled with an increased presence of US ships in the Black Sea, are the Navy’s direct responses to what officials are labeling as resurgent Russian activity in the region. At the fleet’s reactivation ceremony, the Navy’s top official, Adm. John Richardson, noted the threat of a resurgency in Russia.

“The nation, and the Navy, are responding,” he said.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) sail in formation in the Black Sea during exercise Sea Breeze on July 13, 2018. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen Maritime security within the region.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg)

The Defense Department recently committed almost million in funds to an air base in Romania, according to Defense News. Although the US does not maintain its own base in the country, the Romanian forces at Camp Turzii have often hosted US forces for exercises and training. According to the report, these funds are “specifically designated to deter Russian aggression.”

Despite these efforts, Macron remains skeptical that the US will defend its European allies. According to a Reuters report, he prodded the EU to discard its reliance on the US, urging financial and strategic autonomy.

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

Articles

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.


Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Cheyenne Mountain is about 9,500 feet tall, and the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 feet from the top. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.

“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”

 

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”

The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”

Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.

Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.

“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”

The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.

“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.

“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”

Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.

“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”

Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.

“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.

3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.

“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”

As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.