600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.


About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
A CH-47 aircrew from Fort Bliss drops off soldiers during an air assault training operation. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aura E. Sklenicka)

“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.

“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”

Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.

The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.

These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.

The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.

Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.

The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.

Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.

The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.

Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.

“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.

The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.

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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.”

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This Marine vet took his sick dog on a life-changing road trip

Marine veteran Robert Kugler traveled with his dog, Bella, across the country and throughout the East Coast after doctors told him that Bella’s bone cancer would kill her within a year.


Now, 16 months after that notice, Kugler and Bella have proved the doctors wrong and are still moving together and making the most of what time she has left.

My ball now, suckas!! #GoBellaGo #JustKeepSwimming #LiveNowTour

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 25, 2016 at 4:59pm PDT

Kugler was getting ready to graduate college on the GI Bill in 2015 when he heard the news that Bella had bone cancer. A May 2015 amputation of Bella’s front left leg bought her some time, but veterinarians were still pessimistic about her chances. That’s when Kugler decided that he wanted to give her a proper send-off.

“I just was kind of looking at her, and just imagining her being gone when I came home from work,” he told WATM. “I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s take off for a little while.'”

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 28, 2016 at 7:59am PDT

Since that decision, Bella and Kugler have been traveling together around the country. Like Kugler, Bella loves being in nature.

“We were in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York,” Kugler said. “That has been some of our best nature time together during this period. … Our hikes in the Adirondacks are probably some of my favorite times that we’ve had together, like near Lake Placid.”

Bella, who Kugler adopted in 2007 with his then-wife, is great with people and is known for enthusiastically greeting almost anyone she meets.

“Bella’s still very independent,” Kugler said. “She wants to meet new people, but she’s also just very curious about how they smell, if they have food for her. ‘You got food? Who’s got food? Do you have food for me?’ She gets a little spoiled.”

This has allowed Kugler to meet and help encourage people he wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.

“We meet a little girl in a wheelchair that just falls in love with Bella before she even realizes that she has three legs. Bella stands up, and the girl is like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s like me,’ ” Kugler said.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:21pm PDT

As Kugler describes it, he and Bella are just, “Out exploring the world with my dog, and encouraging people to get outside and drop their social barriers and their boundaries, to just live on this tiny blue speck together as one.”

While Bella has done brilliantly on their trip, staying active and outgoing despite her cancer, Kugler says that traveling with Bella has helped him nearly as much as it has helped her.

“When I’m with her, and I’m paying attention to her, I’m outside myself, and I’m focusing on giving her the best life, I feel at that point in time that I am the best version of myself,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I like really spending time with her and doing our thing.”

Kugler is overjoyed that Bella has been able to fight for so long and has helped so many people, but he keeps people updated on her progress in his Instagram feed where he acknowledges that Bella is still facing death.

Our adventures in the western slopes were a great refresher of what we love to do and see. Get out into the wild, be a little wild, and meet a few more wildlings along the way. Now, today’s adventure begins. We’re on our way back to Ft. Collins to visit with Vets at CSU Animal Cancer Center for a consult for the CT scan. The plan is to actually get 2. One, focused on her mouth to see exactly where the cancer is and how far it’s spread. The second, a full body scan to see if she’s healthy enough for treatment. Though I’m not abandoning hope, I am prepared to hear the words “there’s nothing we can really do.” See, Bella started coughing recently. It’s a cough that starts from the chest and ends with a hack. Usually it doesn’t produce anything. This morning, and one other time last week, she actually hacked up some bloody phlegm. Again, my first and utmost priority is her quality of life, her comfort, and her happiness. We will be okay, as we have each other. Obviously I won’t have her in the flesh form forever, but she’ll have me by her side until the moment she closes her eyes for the last time. Again, I’m not abandoning hope, rather preparing for reality. I’d like to share a perspective that helps me with the grief associated with death. What can keep my spirits up and prevent me from being a blubbering indecisive mess. See…impending death isn’t the “worst news.” Bella has lived an incredibly adventurous and joyous life that should be celebrated. The end shall not define her legacy. Death is a chapter in all of our books, but definitely not the last. It is this perspective, that allows me to appreciate every day with her and to walk into CSU today without the fear of losing her, because I never will. She is mine, and I am hers, forever.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Sep 21, 2016 at 6:31am PDT

Hopefully, Rob and Bella have a lot of great adventures left together. But Bella has made a lasting impact on plenty of people either way.

In addition to his Instagram feed, Kugler posts photos of his road trip with Bella and other adventures at his website, RKLifeIllustrated.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US nuclear subs Hartford and Connecticut surfaced in the Arctic

Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) and Seawolf-class fast attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) both surfaced in the Arctic Circle March 10, 2018, during the multinational maritime Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018 in the Arctic Circle north of Alaska.


Both fast-attack submarines, as well the UK Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant (S91), are participating in the biennial exercise in the Arctic to train and validate the warfighting capabilities of submarines in extreme cold-water conditions.

Also read: Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

“From a military, geographic, and scientific perspective, the Arctic Ocean is truly unique, and remains one of the most challenging ocean environments on earth,” said Rear Admiral James Pitts, commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC).

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
(Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

ICEX provides the U.S. Submarine Force and partners from the Royal Navy an opportunity to test combat and weapons systems, sonar systems, communications, and navigation systems in a challenging operational environment. The unique acoustic undersea environment is further compounded by the presence of a contoured, reflective ice canopy when submerged.

Related: The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

According to Pitts, operating in the Arctic ice alters methods and practices by which submarines operate, communicate and navigate.

“We must constantly train together with our submarine units and partners to remain proficient in this hemisphere,” Pitts said. “Having both submarines on the surface is clear demonstration of our proficiency in the Arctic.”

In recent years, the Arctic has been used as a transit route for submarines. The most recent ICEX was conducted in 2016 with USS Hampton (SSN 767) and USS Hartford (SSN 768).

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
(Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication 2nd Class Micheal H. Lee)

The first Arctic under-ice operations by submarines were done in 1947-49. On Aug. 1, 1947, the diesel submarine USS Boarfish (SS-327), with Arctic Submarine Laboratory’s founder, Dr. Waldo Lyon, onboard serving as an Ice Pilot, conducted the first under-ice transit of an ice floe in the Chukchi Sea.

More: Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

In 1958, the nuclear-powered USS Nautilus made the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean beneath the pack ice. The first Arctic surfacing was done by USS Skate (SSN 578) in March 1959. USS Sargo was the first submarine to conduct a winter Bering Strait transit in 1960.

The units participating in the exercise are supported by a temporary ice camp on a moving ice floe approximately 150 miles off the coast of the northern slope of Alaska in international waters. The ice camp, administered by the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), is a remote Arctic drifting ice station, built on multi-year sea-ice especially for ICEX that is logistically supported with contract aircraft from Deadhorse, Alaska. The ice camp will be de-established once the exercise is over.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army created a new, safe vaccine for the Zika virus

Three Phase-1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine, known as a ZPIV, have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published early in December in the medical journal “The Lancet.”


Each of the three studies included in the paper was designed to address a unique question about background immunity, vaccine dose or vaccination schedule. A fourth trial with ZPIV is still underway in Puerto Rico, where the population has natural exposure to other viruses in the same family as Zika (flaviviruses), such as dengue.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
A team of U.S. Army researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a Zika vaccine that has induced a strong immune response in early trials. (U.S. Army photo by Jonathan Thompson, WRAIR)

“It is imperative to develop a vaccine that prevents severe birth defects and other neurologic complications in babies caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, WRAIR’s Director for Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Zika program co-lead and the article’s lead author. “These results give us hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be achievable.”

Across the three trials, a total of 67 healthy adult volunteers (55 vaccine, 12 placebo) received two vaccine injections, four weeks apart. Researchers measured the immune response by monitoring levels of Zika virus-neutralizing antibodies in the blood. More than 90% of volunteers who received the vaccine developed an immune response against Zika.

Read More: Here’s what US troops should do if they’re worried about Zika

“Not only is the development of a Zika vaccine a global public health priority, but it is also necessary to protect Service Members and their families,” said Col. Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program and Zika program co-lead.

The ZPIV vaccine candidate was developed as part of the U.S. Department of Defense response to the 2015 outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. WRAIR researchers conceived the ZPIV vaccine in February 2016 and were able to advance the candidate to a Phase 1 human trial by November of the same year.

“WRAIR has previously steered to licensure a similar vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, a flavivirus in the same family as Zika, which helped speed our vaccine development effort,” said Dr. Leyi Lin, who led one of the trials at WRAIR.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
A team of U.S. Army researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a Zika vaccine that has induced a strong immune response in early trials. (U.S. Army photo by Jonathan Thompson, WRAIR)

In the volunteers who received the vaccine, neutralizing antibody levels peaked two weeks after they completed the 2-dose vaccine series, and exceeded the threshold established in an earlier study needed to protect monkeys against a Zika virus challenge. Researchers also found that antibodies from vaccinated volunteers protected mice from a Zika virus challenge, providing insight into how this vaccine might prevent Zika infection.

Next steps include evaluating how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, and the impact of dose, schedule and background immunity. Michael added that, “Army researchers are part of integrated, strategic US Government effort to develop a vaccine to protect against Zika.”

The ZPIV program is led by Col. Michael and Dr. Modjarrad. The principal investigators at each of the study sites were Dr. Leyi Lin at WRAIR, Dr. Sarah L. George at SLU and Dr. Kathryn E. Stephenson at BIDMC. The sponsor of the investigational new drug application for two of the studies (WRAIR and SLU) is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The BIDMC study is investigator-sponsored by Dr. Kathryn Stephenson.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
A team of U.S. Army researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a Zika vaccine that has induced a strong immune response in early trials. (U.S. Army photo by Jonathan Thompson, WRAIR)

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and China panic as US enters great-power arms race

The US’s first test of a missile since withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has Russia and China rattled, with each nuclear-armed rival warning that the US is igniting a great-power arms race.

As Russia said the US had “set the course for fomenting military tensions,” China expressed concerns that American actions would “trigger a new round of arms race,” making conflict more likely.

Arms-control experts have said that a “new missile race” is underway, arguing that strategic rivals are likely to match US weapons developments “missile for missile.”


The US military on Aug. 18, 2019, conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile that would have been banned under the INF Treaty a little over two weeks ago.

The 1987 treaty was a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow that put restrictions on missile development, prohibiting either side from developing or fielding intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, systems with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. China — never a party to this pact — has been developing missiles in this range for decades.

Accusing Russia of violating the agreement through its work on the Novator 9M729, a missile that NATO refers to as SSC-8, the US said earlier this year that it would “move forward with developing our own military response,” a position supported by NATO.

When the US formally withdrew from the treaty at the start of August 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper explained that the Department of Defense would “fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles.”

Sixteen days later, the US tested its first post-INF missile — alarming not only Moscow but Beijing.

“We will not allow ourselves to get drawn into a costly arms race,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told Russian state media, according to The Guardian.

Urging the US to let go of a Cold War mentality, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, said that the US test and future tests would ultimately “lead to escalated military confrontation” that would harm “international and regional security.”

Russia, which insists it did not violate the INF Treaty, has repeatedly warned the US against deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

The weapon tested Aug. 18, 2019, as The War Zone explains, was a ground-launched BGM-109 Tomahawk, a variant of the BGM-109G Gryphon, a US missile system that together with the Pershing II mid-range ballistic missile comprised the forward-deployed tactical nuclear forces in Europe before the INF Treaty was signed and all relevant weapon systems were destroyed.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

On Aug. 18, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. PT, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California.

(DoD photo by Scott Howe)

In an apparent response to Moscow, the US said it had no plans to put post-INF Treaty missiles in Europe. Beijing may actually have more reason to worry.

The Pentagon — and specifically the new secretary of defense — has expressed an interest in positioning new intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific to counter regional threats like China.

Esper told reporters recently that at least 80% of China’s inventory “is intermediate-range systems,” adding that it shouldn’t surprise China “that we would want to have a like capability.”

China did not respond positively to the news, saying it wouldn’t let the US put missiles on its “doorstep.”

The US has not announced where any of these missiles would be deployed.

While some observers see the US wading into a major arms race as it focuses more on great-power competition, others see this as a reasonable strategic evolution in US military capabilities.

“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,'” Tom Karako, a missile-defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.

Over the years, China has developed increasingly capable missiles designed to target US bases across the Pacific and sink US carriers at sea, while the US has expressed an interest in deploying new capabilities to tilt the scales back the other way.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin brags about the superiority of Russian weapons

President Vladimir Putin hailed new missiles in Russia’s military arsenals but emphasized Oct. 18, 2018, that the country would only use its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack.

Putin emphasized during an international policy forum in Sochi that Russia’s military doctrine doesn’t envisage a preventative nuclear strike. He said Moscow only would tap its nuclear arsenal if early warning systems spotted missiles heading toward Russia, in which case “the aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable.”


“Only when we become convinced that there is an incoming attack on the territory of Russia, and that happens within seconds, only after that we would launch a retaliatory strike,” he said during a panel discussion at the forum.

“It would naturally mean a global catastrophe, but I want to emphasize that we can’t be those who initiate it because we don’t foresee a preventative strike,” Putin said.

“We would be victims of an aggression and would get to heaven as martyrs,” while those who initiated the aggression would “just die and not even have time to repent,” he added.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

In this video grab provided by RU-RTR Russian television via AP television, March 1, 2018, a computer simulation shows the Avangard hypersonic vehicle maneuvering to bypass missile defenses en route to target.

The Russian leader also warned that new hypersonic missiles his country developed give it a military edge.

“We have run ahead of the competition. No one has precision hypersonic weapons,” he said. “Others are planning to start testing them within the next 1 to 2 years, and we already have them on duty.”

Another new weapon, the Avangard, is set to enter service in the next few months, he said. In 2018, Putin said the Avangard has an intercontinental range and can fly in the atmosphere at a speed 20 times the speed of sound, making it capable of piercing any missile defense system.

His blunt talk on Oct. 18, 2018, comes as Russia-West relations remain frosty over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

Putin said he still hopes U.S. President Donald Trump will be able to improve the ties between their countries. He thinks Trump wants “some sort of stabilization and improvement of U.S.-Russian ties” and said Moscow is ready for that “at any moment.”

Putin said his meeting with Trump in Helsinki in July 2018 was positive and they had a “normal, professional dialogue” even though their exchange brought strong criticism from Trump.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, July 2018.


At the same time, the Russian president sharply criticized Washington’s reliance on sanctions against Russia and others, saying the instrument of punishment “undermines trust in the dollar as a universal payment instrument and the main reserve currency.”

“It’s a typical mistake made by an empire,” Putin said. “An empire always thinks that it’s so powerful that it can afford some mistakes and extra costs.”

Building on his defiance and boasts, Putin said Russia had nothing to fear given its defense capability and “people ready to defend our sovereignty and independence.”

“Not in every country are people so eager to sacrifice their lives for the Motherland,” he said.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

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Today in military history: Greek soldiers sack and burn Troy

On June 11, 1184 BC, Greek soldiers, hiding in an elaborately-built wooden horse, opened the gates to the city of Troy and laid waste to the once famed city.

Renowned historian Homer tells the story of how Paris, a prince of Troy, eloped with Helen, who happened to be Queen of Sparta. 

The King of Sparta, Menelaus, was understandably less than thrilled. Helen was dubbed “the face that launched a thousand ships” as Menelaus did just that and set sail for Troy to exact his revenge.

The Greeks laid siege to Troy for ten years but were unable to beat Troy’s impenetrable city walls. One day, they built a massive wooden horse and left it at the city gates as an offering. 

Believing they won the war, the Trojans took the horse into the city as a war trophy. As Troy slept soundly that night, Greek warriors snuck out of the horse and opened the gates for the Army outside. Once inside the walls, they sacked and burned the once great city, killing nearly everyone inside.

Scholars and historians continue to debate whether the Trojan War was history or myth. Excavations conducted by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann and others provide evidence to suggest that the city of Troy was indeed real, and located in modern Hisarlik in Turkey. As for Paris, Menelaus, Helen, or the great Achilles, it’s subject to speculation. Classical Greeks treated Homer’s work as history while many believe the epics to have been exaggerated.

Nonetheless, Homer’s rendition of Troy, its downfall, and the glory of Greece remains one of the most significant pieces of military literature for all of mankind.

Featured Image: Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s body around Troy, from a panoramic fresco of the Achilleion by painter Franz Matsch 1892.

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How deployed soldiers celebrate Christmas

Every year, thousands of Americans in the military spend their holidays serving their country abroad. This year is no exception. In 2020, there are service members on every continent, in over 170 countries. 14,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, 13,000 in Kuwait, and thousands more in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, and countless other countries. Being away from home on Christmas can be lonely and painful, but it has a certain beauty of its own. 

Tradition is a big part of the military community, and celebrating the holidays is no exception. While stationed abroad, service members do whatever they can to make the season bright. It’s never the same as being home for the holidays, but the special moments spent on base make future Christmases at home all the brighter. 

Each base celebrates differently, but holiday celebrations are pretty universal. 

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Just after Thanksgiving, the preparations begin. Decorations vary, but soldiers do their best to deck the halls with makeshift trees, wreaths, and even lights. Some recreation programs host decorating contests with prizes to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. 

When the big day arrives, it’s often kicked off with a Christmas 5 or 10K. As the day goes on, you can expect to see service members going the extra mile to spread some smiles. Some might dress up as elves, Santa, or the Grinch, while others stroll about the base singing carols. It’s not all silliness, though. For those who want to, Christmas church services are usually offered all day long at the base chapel. 

Christmas is one of the few days that just about everyone is invited to relax and enjoy themselves. Soldiers spend time calling family, playing games, or spending time outside if the weather allows. On some bases, it’s even warm enough to go for a celebratory snorkel! 

Christmas dinner is typically a much-anticipated event. The meal is always next-level, with turkey or ham, all the fixings, and enough dessert to go around. In a touching twist, commanding officers often volunteer to serve their subordinates at dinner as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for their service. Often, the meal is accompanied by concerts or other live entertainment to raise morale. After dinner, soldiers gather for game nights or to watch classic Christmas films to bring the festivities to bring the evening to a peaceful close. 

Every base is a little different, but at the end of the day, their individual traditions are part of what makes a Christmas deployment a special experience. 

The people you share the season with might surprise you. 

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Many Americans are stationed in countries that don’t typically celebrate Christmas. One would expect to celebrate alone, but that’s not always the case. In some areas, like Bahrain, soldiers have been pleasantly surprised when the locals wished them a Happy Christmas. The culture on base often lightens up, too. Some soldiers have been surprised with pajama days, cocoa, and other luxuries that would normally be off-limits. 

The holiday reminds you of your priorities. 

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

More than anything, Christmas reminds soldiers of why they enlisted in the first place. When you sit down to Christmas dinner on deployment, you’re breaking bread with those who have vowed to protect their country, their families, and each other. You’re sacrificing your holiday to help protect your traditions back home. It’s not easy, but a Christmas spent serving your country is one you’ll never forget. 

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The 30th woman to attempt Marines’ Infantry Officer Course is dropped

A female Marine officer was dropped from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course when she failed to complete a ruck march for the second time. The unidentified Marine was the 30th woman to attempt the course. Two male officers dropped out during the same ruck march.


600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
A female Marine goes through infantry training in Germany. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps by Sgt. Tyler L. Main)

All three officers will move to the Marines Awaiting Training Platoon and will be able to restart training in July, according to Marine Corps spokesman Anton Semelroth.

While this is the 30th female Marine to drop out of training, she will be the first to be allowed to re-attempt the course. Only officers seeking an infantry MOS are allowed to restart the course. Previous female candidates were destined for non-infantry jobs and so were not allowed to repeat.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
Marine Corps officers in the Infantry Officer Course. Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

While women have made it through other challenging U.S. courses like the U.S. Army Ranger School and the Marine Corps’ enlisted infantry training, Marine Corps IOC has consistently stopped them. So far, only two women have even made it to the second week of the training.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus maintains that the standards will not be dropped so that women can make it through the course.

“I will never lower standards,” Mabus said.  “Let me repeat that: Standards will not be lowered for any group! Standards may be changed as circumstances in the world change, but they’ll be changed for everybody.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Troops have rescued and evacuated hundreds from Florence

Thousands of active-duty and National Guard troops are using amphibious vehicles and search-and-rescue aircraft to move people and equipment after Hurricane Florence battered the East Coast, even as some of their own bases were damaged by the storm.

Rainfall and rising water levels continue to threaten areas of North and South Carolina four days after Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm.

Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, said the military has been able to work seamlessly with state and federal authorities leading relief efforts; 13,000 service members are responding to some of those agencies’ requests, including 6,000 active-duty forces and about 7,000 National Guard members, he said Tuesday from Raleigh, North Carolina.


Troops from Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina; Fort Jackson in South Carolina; and Moody Air Force Base in Georgia have pitched in.

In coordination with local, state and federal authorities, the Defense Department not only pre-staged meals and water, but also vehicles that could operate in floodwaters and helicopters for search-and-rescue and transport missions.

“As it turns out, that’s exactly what we needed to have,” O’Shaughnessy said.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Members of the 106th Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, drop from an HH-60 Pavehawk during a rescue mission during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

Army personnel in high-water vehicles have helped evacuate about 300 people. And Marines from Camp Lejeune used amphibious vehicles to assist people stranded by floodwaters. In one mission, they were able to rescue 20 people at once, O’Shaughnessy said.

Cherry Point was also turned into a makeshift shelter after another nearby began to flood.

“A local state center was flooding so we took them to Cherry Point where we could house them overnight and feed them,” he added.

The storm didn’t bring the damaging winds initially feared, but it hovered over land for days, moving at just 2 mph and dumping about 3 feet of rain in some of the hardest-hit areas. That has caused rivers and streams to swell and spill over. In some areas where waterways haven’t crested yet, the threat still exists.

“The concern has turned to flooding, and that’s still the concern over the next 48 hours,” O’Shaughnessy said.

That threat even led the Defense Department to move some of its own supplies and equipment out of the danger zone, he added, since some of the trucks and food were stored at Fort Bragg, which was affected by the storm.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Members of Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Miami and Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team South rescue an elderly woman

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn)

The Coast Guard continues to lead search-and-rescue missions in coordination with state agencies. The Navy‘s amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and amphibious transport dock ship Arlington, which headed out to sea in advance of Florence, are also now about 10 miles off the coast of the North and South Carolina border, where they can assist.

There are MV-22B Ospreys aboard the Kearsarge, O’Shaughnessy said, which can help move people and materials in hard-to-reach areas.

Overall, the coordination between the states, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Defense Department has been “executed exactly as designed,” he said. “My hat is off to the first responders, the local counties. The collaboration between the state and FEMA and FEMA and the Department of Defense has been phenomenal.

“That’s what has allowed us … to have such a strong response,” he added.

Featured image: Staff Sgt. Nick Carey from the 102nd Rescue squadron, New York Air National Guard, scans for people in need of rescue over Kinston, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nigeria will spend a billion dollars to fight Boko Haram

Dozens of Nigerian state governors on Dec. 14 approved the transfer of $1 billion to aid the federal government’s fight against the deadly Boko Haram insurgency, signaling that previous announcements of victory over the Islamic extremists had come too soon.


Attacks have increased in recent weeks as Boko Haram turns to using women and children, often abducted and indoctrinated, as suicide bombers to target cities and towns in the country’s vast northeast.

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki said 36 state leaders approved the transfer of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account, which is used to hold revenues from oil production and protect planned budgets from shortfalls due to volatile crude prices.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
Boko Haram captives.

The transfer makes up nearly half of the $2.3 billion held in the account. The $1 billion will be spent on purchasing security equipment, procuring intelligence, and logistics. The decision was made during a meeting of the National Economic Council.

Weapons procurement for the fight against Boko Haram has been marred by a massive corruption scandal in a country where graft is widespread. Nigeria’s former national security adviser faces criminal charges alleging that $2.1 billion meant to buy arms was diverted.

President Muhammadu Buhari a year ago announced that Boko Haram had been “crushed” after the military flushed the extremists from forest strongholds. A series of high-profile attacks this year, however, led to a military shuffle.

Read More: This Nigerian woman stopped hunting antelope to shoot terrorists

Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency has proven to be one of Africa’s more persistent threats, killing more than 20,000 people, spilling over into neighboring countries and displacing millions in a vast humanitarian crisis. Nigeria was part of a massive aid appeal by the U.N. secretary-general early this year for four countries, including Somalia, Yemen, and South Sudan, where mass hunger is fueled by conflict.

Aid groups have despaired that such appeals for Nigeria’s crisis remain underfunded.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

As ISIS appears to crumble on its home turf in Iraq and Syria, the group’s chapter in Afghanistan — known as ISIS-K — has shown remarkable resilience.


ISIS-K took credit on Jan. 24th for an attack on an office belonging to the Save the Children charity, showing that, despite serious battlefield defeats and senior leadership loses, it remains a capable terrorist group. At least three people were killed in the attack.

The attack on Save the Children has already had a direct effect on the charity’s operation, as they announced the Afghanistan office would close. Similarly, the Red Cross said in October that it was drastically reducing operations in the country following attacks that killed seven of its staff, according to Reuters.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

ISIS-K has been effective at attacking forces in the country even in the heart of Afghan government territory and has been involved in dozens of high profile attacks since 2016. Before this recent attack in Jalalabad, an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 41 people and wounded more than 80 others in Kabul in December.

Fighting back against the group has proven difficult. General John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan summed it up in a press briefing in November; “It’s like a balloon: We squeeze them in this area and they’ll try to move out elsewhere.”

After the attack on Save the Children, Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program and South Asia senior associate at the Wilson Center, tweeted that it’s “a perfect example of the indiscriminate savagery of ISIS.”

“U.S. airstrikes, including the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, have been targeting them for months,” Kugelman wrote. “Hasn’t worked.”

In December, Kugelman wrote that he worries about the group’s resilience. He laid out three reasons why ISIS-K is able to survive — the difficult terrain of the country, homegrown radicalization, and a “steady supply of recruits” from the Pakistani Taliban.

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq
Gen. John Nicholson. (Photo from Dept of Defense.)

There is no question that ISIS-K has suffered large losses, as NATO forces, the Afghan Security Forces, and even the Taliban are all fighting ISIS’ Afghan chapter.

Founded in 2015 and made up mostly of Taliban defectors and militants from Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials estimated last April that ISIS-K had 700 members. In November, Afghan officials said the number may be as high as 3,000.

Also Read: Increased number of casualties among Afghan women and children

ISIS-K has had all three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) killed since the group was founded; Hafiz Sayed Khan in an airstrike in July of 2016, Abdul Hasib in a special forces raid last April, and Abu Sayed just a few months later in another special forces raid in July.

Additionally, just weeks after it was declared, the terror group lost its deputy commander Abdul Rauf Aliza in a NATO drone strike. In 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that “Afghanistan will be their graveyard,” after announcing that at least 200 ISIS militants had been killed over a 21-day operation in Nangarhar province.

More recently, 94 militants — including four commanders — were killed when the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS stronghold last April.

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