According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, a Bulgarian “migrant hunter”, Dinko Valev, has somehow managed to get his hands on an ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind hybrid gunship/light troop carrier, and has added it to his small arsenal of military gear, which also includes a pair of armored personnel carriers (APCs). Valev, a former semi-professional wrestler, made headlines in Europe for forming small posses of Bulgarian locals to chase down illegal immigrants and, who he calls, potential terrorists from Turkey. The Bulgarian government allegedly helped him acquire the two APCs just last year, while ISIS put a bounty on his head for $50,000 USD.
There aren’t any indications that point towards Valev’s new Hind’s operational status, and there’s nothing to suggest that the aircraft is even flightworthy at all. However pictures of the aircraft show the Hind’s chin turret still equipped with the barrels of a Yak-B 12.7mm 4-barrel Gatling cannon, though those barrels could possibly be plugged and the internal mechanisms removed or disabled. Also noticeable in the picture are two empty UB-32 rocket launcher pods, attached to the port wing of the aircraft. The short video also took a look inside the Hind’s surprisingly clean front cockpit, though the rear cockpit, where the main flight control systems are, wasn’t shown. Valev indicates that he’ll use this Hind to continue his “jihadi-hunting” activities to an even greater magnitude than before. How he’ll actually get the Hind working, armed or even up in the air at all is an entirely different question altogether.
It actually isn’t all that difficult to get your hands on old Soviet-era military hardware, and a buyer’s options list ranges anywhere from worn-out utility trucks to fighter jets, and everything in between. Just last year, the Albanian government put up a number of retired yet still flightworthy fighter aircraft for sale as part of a massive downsizing of their military. Bids for the aircraft, which included an assortment of MiG-15, -17 and -19 fighters, began at a whopping $8,600 USD… meaning that just about anybody could have actually entered the bidding process to pick up an aircraft! That, of course, doesn’t include certification, operations, parts and maintenance costs, but that’s still a relative steal!
As for helicopters, you can even find yourself a Mil Mi-24 Hind via a number of websites online, set up by small enterprises which got a hold of a considerable chunk of Soviet-manufactured military gear around and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. When it became unsustainable for the Russian military to continue to operate the large numbers of aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. it had amassed during the Cold War, entire regiments and brigade-sized elements were retired, their hardware either left to rust and rot on abandoned airfield, sold off at cut rates to other countries, or pawned off (sometimes illegally) to individual buyers. In 2015, everybody’s favorite online auctioneer, eBay, actually put up a Mi-24 for sale, retailing at $4,000,000 USD. Apparently, everything about this particular Hind was operational, save for its weapons, which were removed.
Organizations like Russian Military, based out of the United Kingdom, are another option for folks looking to get their hands on old Soviet planes, tanks and other military vehicles. They too offered a Mil Mi-24 Hind at one point, though without a price listed on their official website. This particular helo was de-militarized, possibly used as a prop in a few movies, and left in a state of disassembly, though it was apparently fully capable of being reassembled and flown. It’s unclear whether or not it sold.
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating medical condition. It limits the function of movement and control in the body. As a result, having an SCI can lead to reduced aerobic fitness, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This is due to autonomic dysfunction, muscle wasting, increased regional and total body fat mass, and relative inactivity.
The Central Virginia VA Health Care System has unique expertise treating Veterans with these injuries.
The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs has awarded a grant for .7 million to the Central Virginia VA Health Care System and Virginia Commonwealth University. In turn, these researchers will study spinal epidural stimulation in people with spinal cord injuries. The grant is the first of its kind at a VA medical center.
VA research teams will collaborate on using spinal epidural stimulation treatment with a robotic suit. Hopefully, the result will be an improved quality of life for those suffering with spinal cord injuries. Researchers currently use VA’s robotic exoskeleton suits to improve SCI patients’ mobility and outlook for their prognosis.
New breakthrough can help people stand, step and walk
“A new, scientific breakthrough can help people stand, step and even walk again,” said Dr. Ashraf Gorgey. Gorgey is director of research for the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit and principal investigator for this clinical trial. “It’s called lumbosacral epidural stimulation, or ES. Our research team has used the ‘ES Robot Suit’ for three months in one person with tetraplegia. The patient showed remarkable improvements in motor control. We aim to implant 20 Veterans who have a spinal cord injury with electrodes in their spine.”
Gorgey says they aim to enhance muscle volitional control. Dr. Robert Trainer supports the program by implanting the device. Muscle volitional control includes the ability to perform sit-to-stand activity, overground stepping and limit secondary complications in persons. This may include other benefits similar to improvement in the cardiovascular system and bladder functions. These are common side effects for SCI patients.
The study will measure the effectiveness of resistance training for Veterans using exoskeletal-assisted walking and ES. It will look for improvements in motor recovery, cardio-metabolic health and bladder control.
“The clinical trial will be conducted and completed entirely at CVHCS in Richmond,” Gorgey said.
The White House released Sept. 21 a new presidential memorandum that orders federal agencies — including the Pentagon and CIA — to devote its defense and intelligence resources to fighting the impact of global warming.
“Climate change and associated impacts on U.S. military and other national security-related missions and operations could adversely affect readiness, negatively affect military facilities and training, increase demands for Federal support to non-federal civil authorities, and increase response requirements to support international stability and humanitarian assistance needs,” Obama wrote. “The United States must take a comprehensive approach to identifying and acting on climate change-related impacts on national security interests, including by maintaining its international leadership on climate issues.”
So what could the order mean for American troops and intelligence operators?
The military has faced several years of budget cuts, and several major programs, like the littoral combat ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, and the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, are having some real problems. The F-35 Lightning II is also having its teething problems (albeit those are resolving themselves).
“For all the challenges and threats we face as a nation — from terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, from diseases like Ebola and Zika to Russian aggression in Ukraine — no threat is more terrifying in its global reach or more potentially destructive and destabilizing than climate change,” the memorandum said.
Despite painting the grim picture, the briefing, conducted by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Senior Advisor Brian Deese ended on a hopeful note.
“Just as we work to defeat any adversary before they have the ability to attack, we must similarly prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the briefing document says.
The move has drawn criticism from some. Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, said that the briefing document “reflects delusional group-think substituting for sound policy in the White House and Pentagon.”
“Preparations for bad weather and extreme events such as hurricanes are always prudent, but normal and even abnormal seasonal changes cannot be compared to deliberate attacks from armed human adversaries,” she said. “Furthermore, there is no way that our government or other governments can ‘mitigate’ dangerous weather, or even normal weather. It is unsettling to see high-level officials in the White House buying into narratives such as this.”
Alternate energy projects have been a priority in the Department of the Navy since President Obama took office in 2009. A Washington Free Beacon report last month noted that three of the major projects pushed by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus had not been cost-effective.
Donnelly also expressed concern that “the two documents appear to authorize a power grab on the part of unelected officials who would use ‘national security’ as an excuse to act upon unsupported theories of climate change.”
Iran seized a South Korean tanker and arrested its crew in the Persian Gulf on Monday as the US military continued an on-again, off-again military build-up around its border. The maneuvers came days after the first anniversary of the US assassination of a top Iranian general.
Little more was known about the seizure of the Korean ship on Monday morning.
The US and Iran have been flexing their military and rhetorical might over the past few weeks around the one-year anniversary of the US drone killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan 3, 2020. Iran has threatened revenge for the targeted killing of the country’s most powerful military official.
National security advisors convinced Trump not to conduct a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities last November, according to a New York Times report, despite strong encouragement from Israel. The Israeli government fears the incoming Biden administration will take a softer line on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has responded angrily to the provocations, which included last year’s assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist reportedly by Israeli operatives.
The reversal of the Nimitz’s movements over the past five days alarmed several NATO officials who have repeatedly expressed concerns about what they see as erratic US national security moves post-election.
“I feel like my briefings are on a 24-48 hour delay,” said a NATO official in Brussels, who asked not to be named criticizing a close ally.
“What we believe is that after weeks of pushing additional material and warships into the Gulf region to pressure Iran, it was decided to send the Nimitz home after a mission off the coast of Somalia in an effort to reduce tensions,” said the official. “NATO supported this de-escalation because tensions were dangerously high and there’s more than enough military firepower in the region to deter Iran.”
When asked why such an immediate reversal, the NATO official admitted that it was too early to tell.
“I guess I need a briefing,” said the official. “I suspect they will say there was new information or a new threat and that the Nimitz was needed to stay in the area but there will be widespread suspicions that Trump overruled the redeployment for his own political or emotional concerns.”
A former US national security official, who is expected to join the Biden administration and thus asked not to be identified, said that the previous overflights of the region by long-range bombers — which the official described as not particularly useful for defensive operations — might have inflamed regional allies enough that the Pentagon concluded the Nimitz had to go, only to be overruled by Trump three days later.
“The B-52s [sent from US bases] are useful on the first day of a major war because they can target command and control centers and anti-aircraft defenses from range with cruise missiles,” said the former official. “It’s an offensive threat and so long as they were over the Gulf, Iran would have been convinced of an imminent attack. But they go home after a few hours, the Nimitz can stay and support a much wider range of operations. So it’s an operational mistake to have tried to send it home at all but maybe this was forced by the outcry over the B-52s. Now there’s double confusion everywhere.”
The USS Nimitz — one of the world’s most powerful warships with dozens of attack and support aircraft — had been operating off the Horn of Africa in support of US forces deployed in Somalia as recently as Dec. 28, according to the US Navy. It is believed to be returning to a patrol position in the northern Gulf of Oman.
For its part, Iran announced just minutes after that it had detained the South Korean tanker that it finds South Korea sanctions unreasonable and planned to discuss the sanctions and the detained ship with the South Korean deputy foreign minister, who is due in Iran this week for talks.
The fight continues in the Middle Euphrates River Valley to wrest the last 2 percent of land once controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from the grasp of the terror group, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in Washington.
“That fighting is on-going and as we forecasted, it’s been a tough fight and we are winning,” the secretary told reporters.
The secretary said Syrian leaders have to be well aware of the U.S. position on the regime using chemical weapons. He stressed “there is zero evidence” that any opposition groups possess chemical weapons or the technology to employ those weapons.
The U.S. goal in Syria remains to end the tragedy that would have ended years ago, if Russia and Iran had not intervened, Mattis said. “We want to support the Geneva process — the U.N.-mandated process. … In that scope what we want to do is make certain that ISIS does not come back and upset everything again.”
The U.S. and allies are training local security forces inside Syria. The United States is working with Turkey to launch joint patrols in Manbij. “I think we are close on that; it’s complex,” Mattis said. “Once we get those patrols going along the line of contact and we take out the rest of the [ISIS] caliphate, our goal would be to set up local security elements that prevent the return of ISIS while at the same time diplomatically supporting … the Geneva process.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon, Sept. 24, 2018.
(DoD photo by Jim Garamone)
The secretary said Russia’s vetoes of United Nations resolutions early in the process with Syria, “kept the U.N. marginalized at a time when it might have been able to stop what unfolded. Iran then sent in their proxy forces.”
Iranians are in Syria. Iran is propping up the Assad regime with forces, money, weapons, and proxies. “Part of this overarching problem is we have to address Iran,” Mattis said. “Everywhere you go in the Middle East, where there is instability, you find Iran.”
Iran has a role to play in the peace process, the secretary said. And that “is to stop fomenting trouble,” he added.
Mattis condemned the terrorist attack inside Iran. “We condemn terrorist bombings anywhere they occur,” he said. “It’s ludicrous to allege that we had anything to do with it, and we stands with the Iranian people, but not the Iranian regime that has practiced this very sort of thing through proxies and all for too many years.”
And, the secretary praised the U.S. military response to Hurricane Florence.
“We rate ourselves as having done a good job so far,” he said. “The tactics were to surround it on the seaward side and the landward side, and keep people out of the area forecasted to be hit. So we had troops who were ready to go and follow the storm in from both directions, and we met all the requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency … in a timely manner. We still have troops committed to it, but clearly it is winding down.”
Military equipment, to include deep water vehicles, boats and more, remain available if needed, he said.
The secretary announced he will travel to France and Belgium to take part in NATO’s Defense Ministerial Meeting.
At one time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlled a self-proclaimed caliphate that stretched from Syria to Iraq, but now that force in Iraq has been degraded so much that the remnants are hiding in caves, deep wadis, and tunnels in the desert and hills of western Iraq’s austere terrain, the commander of Task Force Rifles told Pentagon reporters Dec. 11, 2018.
Army Col. Jonathan C. Byrom, who also serves as deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, spoke via video teleconference from Baghdad.
Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are conducting continuous clearance operations against these small pockets, the colonel said.
Checkpoints along the Iraq-Syria border have now been reopened, and Iraq’s border guard and security forces are operating along that border to prevent ISIS from crossing, he said. That includes “intense cross-border fires” by Iraqi and coalition forces in consultation and coordination with Syrian Democratic Forces, he added.
U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command fire 120mm mortars in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve operations Sept. 18, 2018. CJTF-OIR is the military arm of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Iraqi security forces are large-scale clearance operations and are hunting ISIS leadership and trying to take out the terrorist group’s media, propaganda, and financial capabilities, Byrom said.
Assistance from U.S., coalition forces
U.S. and coalition forces are advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi forces, he said, support that includes providing them with joint fires, intelligence, aerial surveillance, and training, along with some equipment. “It’s a good partnership” that’s preventing a resurgence of ISIS and continues to degrade their numbers and effectiveness, the colonel said.
Byrom emphasized that the Iraqis are conducting their own missions and making the decisions. “They are effectively targeting ISIS and regularly conducting operations that disrupt ISIS and preventing their resurgence,” he said.
Asked how many ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, Byrom said he doesn’t focus on the number. “What we’re really focused on is the capability and whether they can translate this capability into destabilizing or resurging,” he explained.
The good news story, he said, is that ISIS attacks “are not having that much of an impact on the population.”
Dec. 26, 1872, the day after Christmas — the weather in Norfolk was bitter cold, with sleet and a gale-force wind. Aboard USS Powhatan, a sidewheel steamer commissioned in 1852, it was particularly unpleasant, with a wet, slippery deck and a dangerous pitch.
Then came a cry of, “man overboard!” Boatswain Jack Walton had fallen from the fo’c’sle into the choppy, freezing water below. He had minutes — maybe seconds — before he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.
Seaman Joseph Noil didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think of the danger or the risk to his own life. He came running from below deck, “took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton — and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue,” his commanding officer, Capt. Peirce Crosby, wrote. “Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil.”
Noil received the Medal of Honor the following month.
Then, he slowly faded from history.
Coming to America
Noil was black and was probably from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, although various records also mention Halifax, the West Indies, New York, and Pennsylvania, said Bart Armstrong, a Canadian researcher dedicated to finding some 113 Medal of Honor recipients connected to that country.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
“During the early days, it was not uncommon for a Soldier or Sailor to fake their residence or place of birth, date of birth or marital status.”
No one knows just what brought Noil to the U.S. or what inspired him to enlist in the Union Navy, Oct. 7, 1864. According to Armstrong, many Canadian black men who traveled south to fight in the Civil War did so to help free the slaves.
Canada was the terminus for the Underground Railroad, and many citizens, particularly in the black community, would have seen or heard of the pitiful, dehumanizing conditions escaped slaves endured.
Noil was from a coastal area, and the Navy may have been a natural fit. Enlistment papers indicate his occupation was carpenter. Dr. Regina Akers, a historian who specializes in diversity at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, noted that he also served as a caulker and would have helped keep his ship watertight – “a very important job.”
Many free black Sailors had some type of ship or shipyard experience, whether it was as a crewmember on a merchant or whaling ship, as a fisherman or as a dockyard worker, Joseph P. Reidy, a history professor at Howard University in D.C. and the director of the African-American Sailors Project, wrote in “Prologue,” a publication of the National Archives.
According to Akers and Reidy, African-American Sailors had always been, if not precisely welcome in the Navy, at least not institutionally discriminated against. They had served honorably in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, and some 18,000 black Civil War Navy veterans have been identified by name.
Unlike the Army, the Navy in the 19th century did not segregate black servicemen. They pulled the same watches, slept in the same bunks — hammocks in those days — and ate in the same galleys as their white counterparts.
Although their ranks were limited to enlisted, there were few, if any, rating restrictions for skilled, experienced men of any color, said Akers. They served in almost every billet, from fireman to gunner, although Reidy wrote that service ratings, such as cook or steward, were the most common.
“If they could qualify or were able to learn that skill set and fill that rating, just like today, many commanding officers would allow them to do so,” Akers said, noting that the background of the ship’s commander and crew could affect the treatment African-American Sailors received.
Noil eventually became captain of the hold, a petty officer in charge of the men assigned to a storage area. He would probably have been responsible for ensuring barrels and containers were properly stowed and locating the appropriate barrels when needed, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command. However, he wouldn’t have had any authority over white Sailors.
Conditions were worse for escaped slaves, Reidy pointed out. By classifying escaped or captured slaves as contraband, the Union could legally consider them spoils of war and put them to work. Contrabands served in the Navy. They fought in the Army. They built fortifications. They cooked. They did laundry. Both men and women served in various capacities. In fact, nearly three men born into slavery served for every black man born free.
Contrabands’ naval ratings and pay tended to be the lowest and least skilled, with most classified as boy or landsman, Reidy explained. They scrubbed, painted, and polished ships. They also served in large numbers on supply and ordnance ships, where they provided manual labor. By the late 1800s, the ratings available to all African-American Sailors became extremely restricted.
Noil, who had given his age as 25 when he enlisted in 1864 and his height at 5 feet, 6 inches, transferred to USS Nyack, a wooden-hulled screw gunboat, in January 1865. Nyack was then part of the blockade off of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Noil was likely present for her involvement in the capture of nearby Fort Anderson the following month.
His next posting is listed as the steam sloop USS Dacotah in March 1866, although Navy records indicate the ship put out to sea that January on a tour that took her to Funchal, Maderia, Portugal; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay, the Strait of Magellan, and Valparaiso, Chili.
Noil was discharged, March 18, 1867. Perhaps he found it difficult to make a living or perhaps he simply missed the sea, for he re-enlisted, Dec. 18, 1871, giving his age as 30. Presumably, he went straight to Norfolk and USS Powhatan, then part of the North Atlantic Squadron and one of the Navy’s last, and largest, paddle frigates.
The ship’s conduct book noted Noil was “always 1st class and on time.” Upon receiving the Medal of Honor, Noil followed in the footsteps of eight African-American Sailors who received the medal during the Civil War. Akers noted that no African-American Sailor has received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.
For Noil and the others, their actions showed that valor transcended color, that black, brown, white, it didn’t matter — shipmates came first.
Shipmate comes without definition. It’s not because you’re white, because you’re black, because we come from the same state, because you’re in the same rating — It doesn’t stop when the orders stop. Your shipmates are your shipmates. I mean, that’s your family.” – Dr. Regina Akers
Noil’s story, Akers continued, also “reminds us of – the importance of Sailors’ readiness, their physical and mental fitness, the training. Drill, drill, drill. Drill them down to the point where they can think almost unconsciously about what to do. So, man overboard. – There’s just certain procedures that pop into place. Now, the environment makes it that much worse. But it doesn’t change the routine or the requirements or the plan for what to do if someone falls overboard.”
Over the next few years, Noil was discharged and re-enlisted twice. His next ship was USS Wyoming, a wooden-hulled, 198-foot screw sloop of war. The Wyoming arrived in Villefranche, France, near Nice, Christmas Eve 1878, and spent the next two years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
She returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 21, 1881. It was her final cruise. It was Noil’s as well. It must have been a difficult one, for that month, he was admitted to the naval hospital in Norfolk and quickly transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.
“For many months,” his admission paperwork reads, “it has been noticed that the patient’s mind was failing, that he was losing his locomotive powers. … Early in April last, he had an epileptic attack, and another on the 13th of May. For two days after latter attack he was speechless, though able to walk and eat. As he has been in the U.S. Naval service for the last seventeen years, it is natural to infer the disease originated in the line of duty.”
No one knows exactly what condition Noil suffered from, whether it was what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, some form of depression, or something else, said Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D., a volunteer historian and former director of forensic services at the hospital, now called St. Elizabeth’s.
“There could be so many reasons. Back in that era, so little was known about mental illness that sometimes certain disorders that were clearly neurological and brain-based were attributed to other causes.” – Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D.
There also wasn’t much 19th-century medicine could do for Noil, Prandoni continued, noting that although the hospital was the premier treatment facility for servicemen and veterans – as well as local civilians – only six medical doctors were on staff to treat roughly a thousand patients.
“What you had, basically, was moral therapy,” he explained. “The concept was that if you could remove people from the stresses of day-to-day living, put them in a homelike atmosphere with beautiful surroundings and caring individuals that would assist them in recovering.”
Noil’s wife, Sarah Jane, was terribly worried about her husband. With two daughters to support, she couldn’t afford to visit him, but she wrote to his doctor regularly: “I was sorry to hear that my husband was so sick and out of his mind. – Doctor do you think that I had better come on and see him? I am very poor with two children to look after,” she wrote in July 1881, later telling the doctor that her “poor little children are always talking about their papa and it makes me feel bad to hear them.”
“Doctor I am glad to think he has had good care. … Doctor if my husband should die I tell you I have not got the means to bury him,” she added that November.
Lost then found again
Her husband did pass away, March 21, 1882. “He was a relatively young man,” said Prandoni. “He died within nine months. That really raises questions about what kind of disease process was going on. It certainly sounds like more than just a psychiatric disorder.”
“The loss of my poor husband has been quite a shock to me. – My friends assure me that time will reconcile me to my great bereavement,” Sarah Jane wrote after learning of his death. “Yet time and the great consolation that I have in meeting in a better world where parting will be no more, will I trust enable me to bear my sorrow.”
Unfortunately, Noil’s name was misspelled on his death certificate and subsequently his headstone. For more than a century, he lay lost in Saint Elizabeth’s graveyard under the name Joseph Benjamin Noel until a group of historians and researchers connected with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society, including Armstrong, finally tracked him down.
Noil finally received a new headstone spring 2017, one with not only the correct spelling of his name but also recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.
Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you. He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back. – We are [Noil’s] shipmates and 134 years after he passed, we have his back.” – Vice Adm. Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve
But these are not the first Americans to have been held hostage. A 2017 list from USA Today before Warmbier’s release noted some other incidents dating from 2009 to the present. These cases have involved civilians. However, prior to 1996, when Evan Hunziker swam across the Yalu River, there had been some incidents where American troops were held hostage.
The environmental research ship USS Pueblo (AGER 2) was attacked and captured by North Korean Forces. One American was killed in the initial attack, while 82 others were held for 11 months. The vessel is still in North Korean hands.
2. July 14, 1977
A CH-47 Chinook was shot down by North Korean forces, killing three of the crew. The surviving crewman was briefly held by the North Koreans until he was released, along with the bodies of the deceased.
After a 10 mile run trailing around national monuments in Washington, D.C., Spc. Lawi Lalang, from Fort Carson, a member of the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, crossed the finish line with a time of 48:38, making him the men’s champion of the 2019 Army Ten Miler. Spc. Elvin Kibet, also a member of the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, earned first in the women division with a time of 54:05.
“It was so great out there, I have no words to describe how I am feeling,” said Kibet, a soldier-athlete in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program “I had soldiers cheering me on, it was like no race I have ever done before.”
An All-Army Ten-Miler team soldier-athlete has won the Army Ten-Miler every year since 2015.
Lalang, a horizontal construction engineer, kept a mile pace of 4:51 during his first ever Army-Ten Miler.
“Spc. Benard Keter and I started with a pretty fast pace,” said Lalang. “At mile seven I pushed it a little bit more and that’s when I knew I had it. I won this race for the Army.”
Spc. Elvin Kibet, who ran on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, won the women’s division of the 2019 Army Ten Miler with a time of 54:05. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin were present at the finish line of the race to congratulate Kibet. Kibet is also a soldier-athlete in the World Class Athlete Program.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
Keter, also a WCAP Solider-athlete, won second place overall for the men with a time of 49:04. Lalang has an extensive running background including being an eight time NCAA Division 1 National Champion at the University of Arizona.
Kibet ran at the University of Arizona where she broke the school’s women’s 5,000 meter record. She kept a mile pace of 5:24 and knew she was going to win after mile four.
“When we started it was a big crowd and I wasn’t sure if there were females in front of me but when I got to mile four someone said ‘first female’ and I thought ‘Oh that’s me!,” said Kibet. “The rest of the way I kept hearing first female and I was confident that I was going to win.”
Spc. Benard Keter finishing the 2019 Army Ten-Miler in second place with a time of 49:04. Keter was on the All-Army Ten Miler team and is currently a soldier-athlete in the World Class Athlete Program.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
The 2019 All-Army Ten-Miler team was made up of six soldier-athletes from around the world and coached by retired Col. Liam Collins. Three of the soldier-athletes are members of WCAP.
Kibet also won first place in the female military division. Maj. Kelly Calway, a member of the All-Army Ten Miler team, won second place for the female military division.
Over 35,000 people participated in the 2019 Army-Ten Miler with more than half of the runners affiliated with the Military.
“The best part was running with my fellow soldiers,” said Lalang. “Seeing the soldiers cheer you on is the greatest feeling. I have wanted to win the Army Ten-Miler since basic training and now my dream has come true.”
Maj. Kelly Calway crossing the finish line of the 2019 Army Ten-Miler. Calway won second place in the female military category. She was on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin were present at the finish line of the race to congratulate Lalang and Kibet. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville were on stage during the ceremony to hand the winners their awards.
“Being congratulated by the senior Army leadership was great,” said Lalang. “I had just finished the race so I didn’t realize who had given me a coin then I looked down at it and thought ‘Oh my gosh that’s the Secretary of the Army!’ It was indescribable.”
Up next for Lalang is the seventh CISM Military World Games where he will compete in the 1,500 meter race. Both Lalang and Kibet are also gearing up for the Olympics trials for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
Spc. Lawi Lalang placed first in the 2019 Army-Ten Miler and Spc. Benard Keter placed second. Spc. Elvin Kibet placed first in the women’s division. All three winners are soldier-athletes in the World Class Athlete program and were on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team. Maj. Kelly Calway won second for top female military finisher. 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team members include: Spc. Michael Biwott from Fort Hood, Maj. Kelly Calway from Fort Jackson, Sgt. Peter Koskey from USAG Humphreys, and WCAP soldiers Spc. Benard Keter, Spc. Elvin Kibet, Spc. Lawi LaLang, all from Fort Carson. Retired Col. Liam Collins coached the team.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
“The preparation for the Games has already started,” said Lalang. “Doing a race like this ten miler is a great tempo run. Now I will focus on staying consistent and believing in myself.”
The Army Ten-Miler was established to support Army fitness goals, promote the Army and building esprit de corps. All race proceeds benefit Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, which includes All-Army Sports.
The 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team members include: Spc. Michael Biwott from Fort Hood, Maj. Kelly Calway from Fort Jackson, Sgt. Peter Koskey from USAG Humphreys, and WCAP soldiers Spc. Bernard Keter, Spc. Elvin Kibet, Spc. Lawi LaLang, all from Fort Carson. Retired Col. Liam Collins coached the team.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of four US troops killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
Sgt. Elchin, a 25-year-old from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was highly decorated for his age, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Interviews conducted by the newspaper show the sergeant was a devoted hero with a kind heart.
His brother, Aaron Elchin, told the newspaper about the last time he spoke with his younger brother, who was assigned to 26th Special Tactics Squadron.
Sgt. Elchin’s awards included the Bronze Star Medal, the military’s fourth-highest award for meritorious service in a combat zone. He also received a Purple Heart and Commendation Medals from both the Air Force and the Army, according to the Post-Gazette.
“I think it is very unusual to be so highly decorated,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand, Dylan was very dedicated in everything that he did.”
Sgt. Elchin enlisted as a combat controller in 2012. In high school, he had a variety of interests; he played the horn in the high school band and also participated in the school’s shop program, according to the Post-Gazette. He was also known for his kind nature.
“[Dylan] was part of a student group who sent holiday cards to residents at McGuire Memorial, a school for students with individualized special education needs,” said Carrie Rowe, Elchin’s former middle school principal, told the newspaper. “Dylan’s Beaver Area School District family will remember him as a young man with a kind heart, who was studious, curious about life, and loved his family.”
Aaron Elchin told the Post-Gazette his family is living in a state of shock since learning about the explosion, one of the deadliest attacks against American forces since 2017.
“We’re all basically waiting to wake up,” he told the newspaper. “We feel like we’re in a giant fog, and we just don’t want to believe it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.
Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on Jan. 2, 2019, as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on Dec. 20, 2018, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.
Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.
Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February 2019. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
In televised remarks on Jan. 2, 2019, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. “I’m not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan — and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.
“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results.”
A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.
Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.
“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” a Pentagon official said.
The Air Force has been granted an exception to policy enabling it to offer Selective Retention Bonuses to a wider population of Explosive Ordnance Disposal senior noncommissioned officers, if they agree to continue serving in EOD for a minimum of three years.
The Air Force is offering this SRB instead of a Critical Skills Retention Bonus to SNCOs who have completed more than 20 but less than 25 years of active duty and who serve as EOD specialists in Air Force Specialty Code 3E8X1. The bonus amount for a three-year service agreement is $30,000. The amount for four years is $50,000 and a five-year service agreement is $75,000.
“The SRB program is a monetary incentive paid to airmen serving in certain selected critical military skills who reenlist for additional obligated service,” said Edgar Holt, Reenlistments Program Manager at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “The bonus is intended to encourage qualified enlisted personnel to reenlist in areas where we have retention shortfalls or high training costs.”
Under this new authority, master sergeants who accept an SRB at 20 years of Total Active Federal Military Service or more may have their high year of tenure adjusted up to 25 years. Senior master sergeants who accept an SRB at 20 years TAFMS or more may have their HYT adjusted up to 28 years.
“In order to extend and receive this SRB, airmen must have a service-directed retainability requirement such as Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer, (date estimated return from overseas) extension or permanent change of station, for example,” Holt said.
This bonus is effective Jan. 29, 2019, and retroactive payments are not authorized. For more information regarding the SRB program, visit the myPers website or contact your local Military Personnel Flight Career Development section.
Troops today love to liken themselves to the warfighters of old — Spartans, crusaders, knights, pirates, or whatever else. It helps our troops buy into the classic warrior mentality and it makes us feel more badass. When it comes to U.S. Marines, there’s really one comparison that stands out above the rest as apt: the Vikings of the middle-ages.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you, young Marine, which historical badass you should try to emulate — you do you. But if you’re looking for some inspiration from history’s toughest customers; if you’re looking for some sea-faring, slightly-degenerate tough guys that howl for a fight, you’d do well to start your search with the Vikings.
Here’s where Vikings and modern Marines overlap:
1. Both were masters at disembarking amphibious landing ships to fight on land
First and foremost, there are no two groups in history more feared for their ability to storm beaches and absolutely destroy everything within range than Vikings and U.S. Marines. The Vikings are famous for their sieges on Northumbria while the Marines are known for successes during the South Pacific campaign of WWII. For both groups, their presence alone is often enough to force a surrender.
But their skills on the coastline don’t discredit their ability to fight inland. Vikings, accustomed to the frigid north, fared extremely well when fighting in the Holy Lands — not too far from there was where the Marines fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah.
Hell, one of the stories of Thor is about him basically trying to drink an entire ocean made of booze.
2. Both are known for intense post-combat partying
Another key trait of the Viking lifestyle that isn’t too far off from what happens in the average lower-enlisted barracks of any Marine Corps installation: consuming volumes of alcohol that would incapacitate mere mortals is just the pregame for Vikings and lance corporals.
I’m highly confident that a Jomsviking leaderwould have been completely cool with wall-to-wall counselling to solve any issues.
3. Both share a deep brotherhood with their fellow fighters
Most troops, regardless of era, become friends with the guys to their left and right, but Marines and Vikings are known for taking that brotherhood to a new level.
The Viking mercenaries, known as the Jomsvikings, followed a strict code that revolved around brotherhood among their ranks and their motto is roughly translated as, “one shield, one brotherhood.” This way of live was written into their 11 codes of conduct. It doesn’t matter who you were before you became a Jomsviking, but so as long as you’re a brother, you will not fight with each other and you will avenge another should they fall in combat. And if there was infighting, the dispute was mediated by the leadership (or chain of command).
All of these things are essentially within the UCMJ.
Or the story of Harald “Bluetooth”… because he ate a blueberry that one time.. Yep, Vikings were creative like that.
4. Both had a penchant for giving each other nicknames
Giving someone a terrible nickname after they made a silly mistake is one of the more bizarre tidbits of Viking lore — but it is exactly what Marines still do to one another today. The platoon idiot is “boot,” the big guy in the unit is “Pvt Pyle,” and you know damn well that certain guy they call “Mad Dog” did something to earn that name.
History speaks of the famed viking warrior named Kolbeinn Butter Penis (named after his sexual exploits) and Eystein Foul-Fart (named for the noxious small that came from his ass). Hell, even Erik the Red got his name because he was a ginger — or because he was a violent sociopath at the age of ten… nobody can say for certain there.
On the topic of Valhalla, Marines hold Tun Tavern with about the same level of respect.
5. Both believe that the older the fighter, the more terrifying the man
Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young.
The only thing more terrifying than a 47-year-old Master Gunnery Sergeant who’s fueled entirely by alcohol, tobacco, and hatred was a 47-year-old, bearded-out berserker who’s lived in the woods for the better part of twenty years.
Unlike their contemporaries, Vikings had a special place in their groups for the older warrior men and treated their cumulative knowledge as sacred. Younger Vikings would pick their brains, trying to learn their tactics. And, at the end of the day, the old viking were said to fight even more ferociously in battle, knowing that their time was short. After all, dying sick in bed won’t get the Valkyries’ attention — only through glorious combat could they earn entry into the hall of Valhalla.
Ah, vikings. You unruly, blood-thirsty a**holes. Some things never change.
6. Both enjoyed fighting more than anything else
The most glaringly obvious similarity between these two groups of warriors is how sacredly they hold the concept of fighting. Much like a Marine being told their deployment got pushed back a few months, Vikings would complain if they weren’t given their time on the battlefield.
Vikings’ culture wasn’t based entirely on fighting, but man, were they good at it. That’s probably why nobody ever talks about the Vikings’ expansive trading network. There’s also a reason why people never really talk about a Water Dog’s “water purification skills.”
H/T: to Ruddy Cano, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and fellow We Are The Mighty contributor, for helping with this article.