In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

Later this month, our nation will mark a full calendar year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions of our fellow citizens and people around the world. The U.S. Armed Forces, being a cross-section of America, have not been spared from the effects of the coronavirus. Across the military, COVID-19 has left a deep mark: PCS moves were delayed, school and childcare has been disrupted, promotion ceremonies and weddings have been put off – and, tragically, many lives have been lost.

In addition to the impact of the pandemic, the U.S. has also dealt with domestic unrest, social change, economic struggles not seen in generations, and the start of a new administration. To say that the last 52 weeks have been challenging and historic would be an understatement. However, March 2021 also marks another milestone, and a fresh opportunity to showcase the best of the ideals of selfless service and teamwork that is the foundation of America’s military: the launch of the Army’s Annual Campaign on behalf of Army Emergency Relief (AER).

AER 79th annual campaign

Most soldiers and their families are familiar with AER, the Army’s own financial assistance organization. Since 1942, AER has been 100% focused on helping soldiers and their families when they face financial challenges. Each year, we support over 40,000 Soldiers with nearly $70 million in grants, zero-interest loans, and educational grants for Army spouses and children. All told, that comes to more than $2 billion in support since our founding, with more than $1 billion of that since 9/11. Chances are, whether you are a single soldier or part of an Army family, you’ve either contacted AER for help yourself or personally know someone that has.

How can AER help? In 2019, we provided $9 million to more than 5,000 soldiers who were impacted by hurricanes, fires, floods, and other natural disasters. Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit our nation hard, we established new relief programs to help Soldiers and their loved ones navigate childcare, remote education, PCS moves, and other critical financial needs caused by the pandemic, including expanded eligibility for U.S. Army Reserve & National Guard Soldiers. Overall, we have more than 30 categories of assistance; whether it’s personal vehicle repair, emergency travel, damage to your house from natural disasters, or funeral expenses caused by the loss of a loved one, we help soldiers deal with life’s unexpected costs. What’s more, all of our financial assistance is provided either as a grant or a zero-interest loan – unlike the payday lenders near Army installations that prey on soldiers, charging up to 36% interest (and sometimes higher) on short-term loans.

Even though our mission supports the global Army team, AER receives no funding from taxpayer dollars. Every dollar we provide to those in need is from donations by soldiers (active duty and retired), the American public, and industry partners. That’s where the Annual Campaign comes in— the main goal of the campaign is to raise awareness across the Army Team of AER’s benefits, while offering soldiers the opportunity to support their fellow brothers and sisters in arms by making a donation.

The many difficulties we’ve faced as a nation over the past year has re-emphasized the importance of supporting those who practice selfless sacrifice on behalf of others. That’s why the theme of this year’s Annual Campaign is “A Hand-Up for Soldiers”. Details on the campaign, which kicked off March 1 and runs through May 15, can be found at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign. Donations can be made online, through an installation’s AER Officer, or your Unit Campaign Representative.

AER isn’t a giveaway program; it’s a hand-up for soldiers and Army families experiencing temporary financial need. We help soldiers get back on their feet and back in the fight; as the Chief of Staff of the Army, General James C. McConville says, “People First – Winning Matters”.  Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength! Let’s work together these next two months and make the 2021 Annual Campaign a success.


Retired Lt. Gen Raymond V. Mason is the Director of Army Emergency Relief. The Army’s Annual Campaign runs from March 1st through May 15th across all installations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

No one is afraid of Russia’s advanced fighter plane in Syria

Russia deployed two Su-57 advanced fighter jets to Syria in a move widely seen as a marketing ploy for the troubled plane that’s struggled to attract international investment, but they recently hinted at another purpose behind the deployment.


The Times of Israel reports that Russia gave a “covert warning” to the Jewish state by saying the Su-57 will serve as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states, which periodically fly into Syrian airspace uninvited.”

The veiled warning comes after Israel and Syria had a heated air battle with Syrian air defenses downing an Israeli F-16. Israel said that it took out half of Syria’s air defenses in return.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Ronan Bergman reported that Israel planned a larger response to Syria’s downing of their jet, if not for a “furious phone call” between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria’s ally, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Also read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

But whatever the two heads of state said on the phone, it’s unlikely the Su-57 had anything to do with it. The Su-57, as it is today, doesn’t pose a threat to Western fighters despite being Russia’s newest and most advanced fighter jet. It awaits a pair of new engines and has significant problems flying and releasing bombs at supersonic speeds.

“I don’t think anyone is too worried about a kinetic threat from Su-57s over Syria in its current state,” Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

Bronk pointed to problems with the Su-57 integrating its radar into data the pilot can actually use in the cockpit, and difficulties in getting the jet to drop bombs properly, calling it “far from combat ready.”

Though the Su-57’s advanced and “innovative” radar set up could pose a threat to US stealth aircraft like the F-22, also operating in Syria, by scoping out its radar signatures and helping inform future battle plans, it’s just not ready for a fight with Israel, the US, or even Turkey.

A commercial for a struggling Russian military export?

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
Vladimir Putin. (Photo from The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

Another Russian official gave Russian media an additional reason for the Su-57’s presence in Syria that seemed to confirm Western analysis that the deployment is a marketing ploy and test run for the unproven jet.

The official said the jet had a “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.”

Yet another Russian official said in Russian media that “as we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” which have included very advanced systems like submarine-launched cruise missiles designed for high-end warfighting.

Related: Russia’s new stealth planes will be nuclear strike aircraft

But as Bronk pointed out, “the only declared combat which the Russian air contingent in Syria is engaged in is bombing rebel and Daesh forces in support of Assad’s ground forces,” which he added was “hardly relevant for the air-superiority optimized Su-57.”

Essentially, all Russia’s air force does in Syria is bomb rebel ground targets. In years of fighting, the bombings have only demonstrated one occasion that the target had anti-air defenses. On that one occasion, the rebels downed a Russian Su-25.

As a result, Bronk said the Su-57s “will no doubt fly above 15,000 feet to avoid” those missiles, meaning the new Russian jet won’t really be flying in combat conditions, only bombing defenseless targets.

Not really in combat, not really a threat

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
If Russia wants to talk about stealth combat jets, Israel has a few of its own. (Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force)

So, why do they need a next-generation, stealth fighter built to dogfight with US F-22s and F-35s that isn’t ready for combat yet? Bronk said the bombing campaign in Syria is “absolutely not the mission set [the Su-57s] are designed for.”

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now the Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Power Studies, told Business Insider that it’s a chance for Russia to test out its new jet where they “don’t have to pay for training ranges,” and concurred with Bronk’s assessment that the plane is not yet able to fully fight.

While Russia may have found a frugal way to boost the profile of an airplane they’re desperate to sell by testing it out in Syria’s almost eight-year-long civil war, nobody familiar with the state of the plane would take it seriously as an air-to-air threat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hurricane Hunters were in Michael’s eye when he made landfall

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron started flying into Hurricane Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and over the next four days observed it intensify from a possible tropical depression to a Category 4 storm, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 2018.

“This storm started out as a low level investigation with the possibility of it reaching tropical storm status by the end of the first flight,” said Col. Robert J. Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander and navigator who was on the mission. “We had a challenge on the first entry into the storm trying to find the center because the eye of this storm was oval shaped and roughly 30 to 40 miles long.”

Stanton said that during the next two passes into the eye, they were getting better readings because the storm was developing throughout the course of their mission.


The track was predicted to hit the Florida Panhandle from the start. It was named Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by Oct. 8, 2018.

“Michael was different than others, because the track pretty much stayed the same from day one,” said Capt. Kelsie Carpenter, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, who flew into the storm on Oct. 9, 2018. “We sent the data to the National Hurricane Center and watched it go from a Category 1 to a Category 2 storm while we were fixing the center and it appeared to be intensifying.”

The 53rd WRS “Hurricane Hunters” were inside the storm as it made landfall in Florida as a Category 4.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018, after the storm made landfall as a category 4 hurricane over the Florida panhandle.

(NASA photo)


The 53rd WRS is the only Defense Department unit that flies reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings. In all, the squadron flew nine missions into Hurricane Michael to gather this information.

While the model forecasts have improved for tracking, Maj. Jeremy DeHart, 53rd WRS ARWO, said intensity forecasts are tricky to predict.

“Data from our drop today indicated that it continued to strengthen right up to landfall,” said DeHart. “Our last dropsonde measured a central pressure of 919 millibars, which was lower than both Katrina and Andrew.”

“This was such a powerful storm for building up in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t happen often that you see a storm increasing intensity while making landfall,” said Lt. Col. Sean Cross, 53rd WRS pilot.

While inside the eye, the crew could see the storm surge hitting the coastline of Florida, said Cross.

“The eyewall also looked different than others I have flown because it was like we were inside an 18-mile-wide barrel or drum, with the eyewall going straight up and down,” he said.

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with 150 mph winds near Mexico Beach, causing massive damage.

“After our experience here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina we understand how difficult it is to experience and recover from a devastating storm,” said Stanton. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are being impacted by Hurricane Michael today.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA Secretary to be next in President Trump’s crosshairs

Fresh off the heels of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has reportedly begun to draw ire from President Donald Trump following a spate of scandals in his agency, according to multiple news reports.


Trump is considering replacing Shulkin with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a former governor of Texas, according to people close to the White House. During a lunch with Perry on March 12, 2018, Trump talked about veterans health issues but reportedly stopped short of offering him the position.

Also read: VA watchdog is reviewing Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe where he attended Wimbledon, went on cruise

Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration and the only Cabinet nominee who was unanimously confirmed, is believed to be on Trump’s firing line after an inspector general report concluded he improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match during a government-funded trip with his wife.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
United States Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Meanwhile, Shulkin reportedly believes that Trump appointees within the department have been conspiring against him and embarked on a campaign to purge the VA of disloyal employees. Following reports of turmoil within the VA, Business Insider began receiving statements of alleged misconduct and mismanagement from current and former employees.

Though their accounts are largely unconfirmed, these employees claim they are “being forced out and made to suffer” and that Shulkin was “responsible for the mismanagement.”

Related: This is the grim novel John Kelly reads when he gets a promotion

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly met with Shulkin, and counseled him to curb the drama, sources told Axios. Following the meeting at the White House, Shulkin conducted an interview with The New York Times, in which he claimed the White House granted him approval to remove staffers who did not support him.

Kelly, who found out about The Times’s article after he was contacted by reporters, reportedly called Shulkin following the interview and believed the secretary exploited the White House meeting, Axios reported.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly.

Following an outbreak of negative press coverage, Shulkin hired additional lawyers and an outside public-relations firm to fend off reports of internal quibbles and to help with the fallout.

But Shulkin’s problems may have only begun to unravel, as the VA inspector general was reportedly looking into a new report on whether he improperly used his security detail to run personal errands. The complaint alleged that Shulkin asked a member of his security detail to accompany him to a Home Depot and carry furniture items to his house, The Associated Press reported on March 13, 2018.

More: The Trump Administration is at war with itself over the VA

Shulkin was reportedly acting erratically and being “extremely paranoid” amid the release of the report, and is believed to have ordered an armed guard to stand outside of his office.

“The honeymoon is ending with a crash that hurts veterans most of all,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said to The Associated Press. “VA always has bad news, but Shulkin’s ethical and leadership failures are still significant — despite any internal attacks.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The FBI director called out China on its massive espionage effort

China has been increasingly active in foreign espionage, so much so that FBI director Chris Wray said “there’s no country that’s even close” when it came to compromising vital assets.


Tackling the issue has proven to be a challenge, and the US has significantly underestimated the threat of China’s activities, Wray said during an interview with NBC News.

Also read: China’s president just gave a huge threatening speech

When the FBI investigates economic espionage, “time and time again, they keep leading back to China,” Wray said.

China has long been accused of taking steps to target intellectual property and trade secrets from small startups to major companies.

“The reality is that the Chinese have turned more and more to more creative avenues using non-traditional collectors,” Wray said during a Senate hearing in February 2018.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
FBI Director, Christopher A. Wray.

In 2017, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property published a report saying China violated intellectual property rights more than any other country, and that it was at least partially responsible for a $600 billion hit to the US economy.

One method China employed in the past was to acquire US-based companies. In 2016, one of the lead suppliers of military aircraft for China, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), scooped up a small and unprofitable aerospace company based in California.

Related: China accidentally posted its plans for naval domination

“What China is doing with AVIC is making sure they have access to technologies that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Tang Energy CEO Patrick Jenevein said in Forbes. That practice is fairly common in business, but China’s involvement earns additional scrutiny.

China’s activities do not appear to be limited to economic espionage. China has somehow acquired defense industry designs, such as a type of thermonuclear warhead engineered for submarine missiles.

Articles

This is what would happen if Argentina tried to take back the Falkland Islands today

In 1982, the United Kingdom and Argentina fought a major war over the Falkland Islands. And yes, it was a major war. The British lost two destroyers, a landing ship, a merchant vessel, and two frigates. The Argentinean Navy lost a cruiser.


This doesn’t count the land or air battles as well. But Argentina hasn’t given up hope of taking back what they call the Malvinas. What would happen if they tried to take the islands today?

Both the Royal Navy and the Argentinean Navy have declined greatly, according to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World.” In 1982, the British had two carriers they sent down to the south Atlantic. Today, the UK only has one — the HMS Ocean — and that ship cannot really operate the F-35 fighters that the Brits have bought, and their Harriers are long retired.

The only saving grace is that Argentina lacks the aircraft carrier they had in 1982 (formerly a British carrier, ironically), and has seen its amphibious force cut down to a modified Type 42 destroyer and an old amphibious transport. And its navy has four destroyers, six frigates, and some corvettes, along with three diesel-electric subs.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
Map of the Falkland Islands (Wikimedia Commons)

On the Falklands, the British have a garrison that houses 1,200 soldiers, according to a 2015 London Telegraph report. There is a flight of four Eurofighter Typhoons, plus a tanker and two Chinook helicopters, at RAF Mount Pleasant. A Type 23 frigate is usually in the South Atlantic as well (sometimes, the Brits will send a Type 45 destroyer), and there may or may not be a nuclear-powered submarine there.

The British have contingency plans to reinforce the Falklands, by adding up to a battalion and to send a couple more surface combatants.

This all depends on getting enough advanced warning. Argentina has one advantage: If it can achieve strategic and tactical surprise, its Air Force could use its A-4AR Fightinghawks (A-4s with F-16 avionics) to try and catch the Typhoons on the ground. Similarly, the Argentinean Navy will use its force of Super Etendards to try and sink any British ship in the area.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
An Argentinean Super Etendard that helped sink the Atlantic Conveyor. (Wikimedia Commons)

Once that’s done and air and sea superiority has been achieved, the Argentineans would likely move to land troops. The goal would be to grab control as quickly as possible. Once done, Argentina would try to reinforce its garrison before the British can get a sub on scene.

At that point, the British will face the same challenge they had in 1982 – re-capturing the Falklands at the end of a long logistical chain. Subs would move to cut off the Falklands, likely sinking any Argentinean warship or merchant vessel they catch at sea.

There might even be some Tomahawk strikes on Argentinean bases – an effort to catch their planes on the ground. Argentina has 22 Fightinghawks and 10 Super Etendards, according to World Air Forces 2017. If the force can be whittled down enough, the Brits may not need much air cover to take the islands back.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
The Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless. (Wikimedia Commons)

The British would have to commit most of its force of Type 45 destroyers and Type 23 frigates to the attack, and they would need to be able to land troops. Oh, yeah, and do it without carriers or planes. You only have to look at what happened to HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse to see how badly that can go.

But when cut off, and knowing that supplies cannot get through, any Argentinean garrison would eventually agree to surrender, likely parlaying to allow the British to land new troops at RAF Mount Pleasant. Much less hard fighting than in 1982, but the same ultimate outcome – Argentina loses – is the most likely one.

Lists

These are the only 3 countries who protect the right to bear arms

The right to keep and bear arms is a longstanding, often glorified right protected by the US Constitution.


Americans own nearly half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world, and on a per capita basis, the US has far more guns than any other nation.

Certainly, many countries are awash with guns. Among the nations with the most firearms are Serbia, Yemen, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia.

There are only three countries, however, that have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms: Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States — here’s why.

Mexico

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
Mexican army members salute during a ceremony honoring the 201st Fighter Squadron at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, Mexico, March 6, 2009. (DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump.)

Just south of the US border, the Mexican government has a strict hold over civilian gun ownership. Although Mexicans have a right to buy a gun, bureaucratic hurdles, long delays, and narrow restrictions make it extremely difficult to do so.

Article 10 of the 1857 Mexican Constitution guaranteed that “every man has the right to keep and to carry arms for his security and legitimate defense.” But 60 years later in 1917, lawmakers amended it following Mexico’s bloody revolution.

During the rewriting of the constitution, the government placed more severe restrictions on the right to buy guns. The law precluded citizens from buying firearms “reserved for use by the military” and forbid them from carrying “arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.”

Read Now: A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

Today, Mexicans still have a right to buy guns, but they must contend with a vague federal law that determines “the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized.”

In 2012, The New York Times reported that only members of the police or military can buy the largest weapons in Mexico, such as semiautomatic rifles.

“Handgun permits for home protection allow only for the purchase of calibers no greater than .38,” the Times wrote. One man who wanted to buy a pistol had to pay $803.05 for a Smith Wesson revolver.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is that there is only one shop in the entire country where Mexicans can go to buy guns, and it’s located on a heavily guarded army base in Mexico City.

Guatemala

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
Guards with guns in Guatamala City. (Image Wikicommons)

Like Mexico, Guatemala permits gun ownership, but with severe restrictions. The right to bear arms is recognized and regulated by article 38 of the current constitution, which was established in 1985.

“The right to own weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of in habitation, is recognized,” the document says. “There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”

Although Guatemalans are not allowed to own fully automatic weapons, they are allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons, handguns, rifles, and shotguns if they obtain a permit. Still, that can be difficult.

Also Read: 22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of

For example, individuals who want to purchase a gun for private security purposes need approval from the government. They are also limited in how much ammunition they can own, and they must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licenses every one to three years, according to GunPolicy.org.

Despite the restrictions, guns are widely available in Guatemala. In fact, it has one of the highest gun ownership rates per capita in Latin America, according to Insight Crime. The same organization also noted that 75% of homicides in Guatemala involve a gun.

United States

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
That’s nice, Ted.

Although Mexico and Guatemala both have a constitutional right to bear arms, the US is in a league of its own simply because it is the only country without restrictions on gun ownership in its constitution.

The second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Those words were adopted in 1791 and have since inspired other countries around the world to provide their citizens with the right to own guns. Only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) “ever included an explicit right to bear arms,” according to The New York Times.

They are Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Liberia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US. All of those countries, excluding Mexico, the US, and Guatemala, have since rescinded the constitutional right to bear arms.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US artillery strikes back new offensive in Syria

U.S. and coalition forces have increased airstrikes and artillery fire against Islamic State fighters in support of Operation Roundup, a new offensive aimed at defeating the terrorist group in eastern Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces have resumed offensive ground operations against the remaining concentrations of terrorist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, deputy commander of strategy and support for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on May 8, 2018.


In the first phase of the operation, the SDF is securing the southeast portion of the Syrian-Iraqi border, “eliminating ISIS resistance and establishing defensive positions” in coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces, operating on Iraq’s side of the border, Gedney said.

Since May 1, 2018, U.S. and coalition forces have carried out 40 strikes against ISIS targets, he said.

“Coalition forces are supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces maneuver by conducting air, artillery and mortar strikes against ISIS targets,” Gedney said, describing how the increase in strikes have destroyed “eight ISIS-held buildings, six logistical assets, two explosive factories and two weapons caches.”

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

Gedney said it is difficult to estimate how many ISIS fighters hold ground in eastern Syria, but said it is “too many.” He also could not estimate how long Operation Roundup would take to complete.

“It is absolutely clear that those final areas are going to be a difficult fight,” he said, adding that “we are going to continue our aggressive pace of operations in our own strikes” until the areas are cleared.

There are signs that the new offensive is already having a “devastating effect on ISIS,” Gedney said.

“Observations from eastern Syria suggest that morale among ISIS fighters is sinking,” he said. “Frictions are mounting between native and foreign-born ISIS fighters as ISIS’ privileged leadership continues to flee the area, leaving fighters with dwindling resources and low morale.”

Despite the progress that has been made east of the Euphrates, coalition officials are concerned that ISIS fighters seem to have more freedom of movement on the western side of the river, which is under the control of pro-Syrian regime forces, Gedney said.

“We remained concerned about ISIS’ freedom west of the river Euphrates; it seems they have some freedom of action still because they have not been properly defeated by the pro-regime forces,” he said.

Gedney stressed, however, that the “coalition will relentlessly pursue ISIS, wherever they are, until they are defeated.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Each year, USAA and the NFL award one person with the Salute to Service Award. This year, the winner is Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment. Cannon leads all business operations of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United of Major League Soccer, Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, PGA TOUR Superstore and Mountain Sky Guest Ranch.

Salute to Service is a year-round effort spearheaded by the NFL and USAA to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. The Salute to Service Award presented by USAA recognizes the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community who have gone above and beyond to honor the military community. 

A United States Military Academy graduate and former U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant, Cannon was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Ramapo High School in Wyckoff, New Jersey, earning All-State honors in football and All-County honors in wrestling. He lettered two years in wrestling at the United States Military Academy and scored a perfect score on every Army Physical Fitness Test for four years. Leading into his senior year, he was selected to lead Cadet Basic Training and later earned the position of Cadet Regimental Commander for 4th Regiment, placing 1,000 cadets under Cannon’s leadership.

US Army Lieutenant Steve Cannon, who won the Salute to Service award

Cannon, who graduated with honors and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from West Point, passed U.S. Army Ranger School and officer training before being assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment along the West German-Czech border. He was on the border when the Cold War ended in 1989.

US Army Lieutenant Steve Cannon, who won the Salute to Service award

We Are The Mighty had the chance to sit down with Steve and talk about him winning this award, his military service and his commitment to military service members and veterans in Georgia. 

WATM: This isn’t your first time being recognized. Last year, you were a finalist, too. Other than your prior service, what motivates you to help your fellow veterans and what does winning the Salute to Service award mean to you?

SC: Well, it is personal to me. I lost my brother to PTSD. I serve on the board of TAPS, which is a network of people that takes care of those who are left behind. I also had a West Point classmate, John McHugh, who made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. I am on the board of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund which was set up in his honor. So far, we raised over $28 million to help take care of children of the fallen.

It has been 30 years since I have taken off the uniform, but we still have obligations to help those who served. 

WATM: Tell us about the USO tour the Falcons went on (the first NFL team to ever do that). What about that tour do you think really resonated with the military?

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders talk to U.S. and coalition service members, during a meet and greet in the gym on Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, June 17, 2018. Members of the Atlanta Falcons conducted a tour hosted by the USO to U.S. military camps throughout Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Horace Murray)

SC: It was amazing that we got to do it. Going over there to Iraq, in harm’s way in 110 degree heat and seeing all the soldiers there really was amazing. We took our coach (Dan Quinn), several players and a couple of cheerleaders. It really gave us perspective to see how our troops were over there. 

We were really blown away by how grateful they were to us. They were really happy we came all the way out there, but the gratitude they had toward us for coming was so impressive. I mean, we were the ones who were grateful. Here these men and women are out here protecting us, and they are thanking us for being there? It was really humbling. And, it speaks more to the Falcons franchise. Four out of the last five winners of the Salute to Service award winners were from the Falcons. I am really proud of that. 

WATM: You and the Falcons raised $250,000 to help homeless veterans in Georgia.  As a veteran yourself, what do you tell people about homeless veterans and what advice do you give on how to help them?

It is a big problem here in Atlanta, and I am often troubled that so many can go from serving in the military and they fall through the cracks and go to sleeping under a bridge. When you see veterans under a bridge in the wintertime, you have to do something. 

Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO) is a group that is doing amazing work in Georgia to tackle that problem. They do everything from getting out from under those bridges, giving comfort, helping them find jobs and helping address any mental health concerns. We were proud to partner with them. It’s the right thing to do. 

WATM: Tell us about your time in the service. How did serving in the military shape your career path?

After I graduated from West Point, I was an artillery officer and got to go to Ranger School. But then I ended up being stationed in Europe during the Cold War. I was doing border patrol duty and I was right on the Czechoslovakian border when the Iron Curtain came down. To be right there, at that point in history was pretty amazing. But being a lieutenant, I learned that it was about service to the organization first. I wasn’t going to go anywhere telling people I was the boss and they had to do what I said. I had to serve first and that’s what led me to make the decisions I did. And I still do. The importance of servant leadership is a lesson I will take with me always. I have been a CEO (for both AMB Sports and Mercedes Benz USA before that) and a lot of the decision making steps I make come from the time in service. 

WATM: Last question. You are a West Point guy.  How do you feel now that Army finally has the upper hand on Navy in football? 

SC: [Laughs] It feels good for once. Things are finally correcting themselves like they should. There was that 14-year span where things didn’t go so well, but to win four out of the last five means a lot, especially when talking to Navy guys. A few of them got really high and mighty during their win streak so it’s good to finally have the upper hand. 

The annual Salute to Service Award is presented during Super Bowl week and recognized at the NFL Honors awards show the night before the Super Bowl. Teams submit nominations in October, which are evaluated by a panel of judges based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment. Steve Cannon will officially receive the award during the NFL Honors broadcast on Saturday night. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Cannon’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL Foundation will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to Cannon’s military charity of choice and Atlanta Falcons’ owner, Arthur M. Blank, will also match with a $25,000 donation from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

The other finalists this season for the Salute to Service Award were New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona and NFL Legend/San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch. 

Congratulations, Steve!

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
Articles

Hero Marine working dog Cena laid to rest at the ‘Arlington of dogs’

A group of six German shepherds gave a final salute August 28 in honor of a fellow canine who served three tours of duty as a military working dog for the US Marine Corps and died on July 27 at age 10 after a weeks’ long battle with bone cancer.


The German shepherds, which are part of the K-9 Salute Team, were trained to kneel and howl on command in honor of Cena, a black lab who was euthanized in July and whose remains were interred August 28 at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in Lyon Township.

The memorial site, which hosted the public service and private interment, has about 10 military dogs buried beside 2,150 pets interred at the historic pet cemetery, according to memorial president and director Phil Weitlauf.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
DeYoung and Cena. Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge.

Cena, a bomb-sniffing dog, belonged to Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jeffrey DeYoung, 27, of Muskegon, who said he adopted the black lab in June 2014 after Cena underwent a year of rehabilitation therapy. DeYoung said that he and Cena served together on a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan that began in October 2009.

Cena also served with Jon North, a Marine sergeant from Osage, Iowa, who was present at the ceremony, and one other soldier who was not able to be there.

DeYoung said in a eulogy at the memorial service that Cena endured various injuries on his tours of duty, and that he and Cena encountered three improvised explosive devices together. Cena was officially an IED detection dog with the Marine Corps. The dogs walk ahead of patrols and pick up the scent of the explosives in the area and sit down near the explosive before a bomb-disarming unit comes, Weitlauf said.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
USMC photo by Cpl. Cody Haas.

“In every aspect of Cena, he has shed blood, pain, sweat, and tears for this country,” DeYoung said.

North, 28, who served one year with Cena in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 didn’t speak at the service, but told the Free Press that Cena was known for being “a slow, old man” and that he was “just kind of a goofy old dog.”

“By the end of your time together, he’s more like a brother, more like a kid. It’s hard to let him go,” North said.

Together, DeYoung and North carried an urn containing Cena’s ashes in a funeral procession that included bagpipers and a military color guard.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
USMC Lance Cpl. Jon North and Cena in Marja, Afghanistan. Photo from DoD.

Weitlauf said that three separate Jeep convoys — including one from Muskegon with DeYoung escorting Cena’s remains — traversed different parts of the state to make it to the service, linking up at different locations including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and New Hudson. He said that about 80 Jeeps participated in the convoys, and that about 600 people attended the funeral service — nearly double the 350 attendees the services normally get.

DeYoung, who is a professional public speaker, said that after adopting Cena in 2014, their job wasn’t yet over. They spent the next several years journeying across the country together to places such as President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and the US Congress, where DeYoung discussed the need to bring home all war dogs prior to retirement “so that what happened in Vietnam with the euthanasia will never happen again.”

At the end of that war, troops were ordered to leave their dogs in Vietnam out of fear of a logistical nightmare and concerns of disease being brought back, Weitlauf said. They had the option to give the dogs over to the South Vietnamese army or to euthanize them, he said. Over 4,000 were left behind, and only 204 made it back home, Weitlauf said.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith

Tom Strempka, 69, of Bloomfield Hills was deployed to Vietnam in 1971 at the age of 23, where he served a six-month tour of duty and suffered injuries. He said the funeral gave him closure.

Strempka said that war dogs in Vietnam once saved his platoon of 30 men from an ambush.

“I’m out here for every funeral because it’s long overdue for everyone to recognize the importance of dogs as being part of the unit and not a piece of equipment, the way the government treated them in Vietnam,” Strempka said. “And it’s a glorious day, and I guess that it gives me a little more peace of mind.”

For DeYoung, laying Cena to rest at what he described as the ” Arlington of dogs” also provided some closure.

“Cena’s journey in my life is done. Our work is not, so I will continue doing so in his honor,” DeYoung said to reporters before the ceremony.

Articles

This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness (Collaborative) announced today [Monday, Dec. 19, 2016] that it met the ambitious goal they set in September of this year: to end homelessness for veterans in the City within 100 days (by Christmas Day). This makes La Crosse the first city in Wisconsin to end homelessness among veterans.


In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo: Tomah VA Medical Center)

Over the 100 days, the Collaborative increased its monthly housing placement rate for veterans by 400%, demonstrating what’s possible when multiple agencies join forces and focus on clear, measurable goals.

This goal was not accomplished by doing business as usual. It was accomplished by unprecedented cross-agency collaboration between over thirty agencies, including: the Tomah VA Medical Center, Couleecap, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, La Crosse Police Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (full list of Design and Leadership Team members).

This effort elevated action-oriented problem-solving over traditional planning.

Also read: This is an easy way to help homeless veterans this holiday season

With the support of Gundersen Health System’s Office of Population Health, the Collaborative is using a proven innovation and improvement model (adapted from one developed by Community Solutions and the Rapid Results Institute for the 100,000 Homes Campaign) to accelerate housing placements and profoundly improve system performance.

“The key to our success has been the amazing collaboration within our initiative and a strong shared focus from everyone on the team”, said Kim Cable, Design Team member and Housing and Community Services Director at Couleecap). “This is just the beginning of our journey to end all homelessness in the City of La Crosse. We are excited and inspired by our initial success and the support from the community.”

“I am so proud of the La Crosse Collaborative’s incredible efforts to end veteran homelessness here in our community”, said Mayor Tim Kabat, a Leadership Team member.

“La Crosse signed on to the national effort, as part of the Mayor’s Challenge, to work together and provide permanent housing for our homeless veterans and it is awe-inspiring to see this dream realized.  We are so fortunate to live in such a caring, compassionate, and hard-working community.”

“This is a tremendous achievement and milestone for our community,” said Victoria Brahm, Acting Director of the Tomah VA Medical Center. “I am extremely proud of our staff members who worked with the Collaborative. This is the result of a lot of hard work – getting to functional zero was a tough challenge, but one that we were never going to give up on.”

“Gunderson’s Office of Population Health is focusing on elevating the health of the community by engaging beyond the health system walls, and partnering with organizations in communities who are going upstream to prevent illness, disease, injury, and crisis”, said Sandy Brekke, Senior Consultant, Office of Population Health, Gundersen Health System.

“It’s hard to be healthy when you go to sleep hungry, homeless, or in substandard housing. As an institution, GHS recognizes that safe, secure housing is foundational to the health of individuals and families in our community and are proud to support the effort to end homelessness in La Crosse. We are grateful to the Design Team of the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, they have brought the community together and have worked incredibly hard to make sure that our Veterans have a warm place to call home.”

Related: 5 ways to support veterans all year long

The Collaborative will celebrate its success tomorrow afternoon, December 20th, at the Waterfront Banquet Room, hosted by Don Weber, CEO of LHI and Leadership Team member, who said: “Veteran homelessness is our nation’s silent shame. It goes without saying that any who has served and protected our nation should not have to worry whether they will have a roof over their heads. In dedicating ourselves to ending Veteran homelessness in our region, our community has proven that the story does not have to end here. Our Veterans deserve our lifelong commitment to returning to them the same comfort and safety they’ve so selflessly secured for us through their service.”

For more information on what it means to end homelessness (defined nationally as reaching “functional zero”), visit the FAQ section on the Collaborative’s website. On the website, you can also donate to ongoing efforts to end homelessness, sign up to volunteer or—if you are a landlord­—offer housing to others who are homeless in La Crosse.

For more information on the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, contact Kim Cable, Design Team Member, Housing and Community Services Director, Couleecap, at kim.cable@couleecap.org or  608-787-9890. See more here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA research shows “remarkable improvements” for spinal cord injury veterans

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.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

www.blogs.va.gov

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.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things you had to have known before joining the military

Well, you took the leap and signed on the dotted line. Now you’re standing in your underwear in front of your bed at boot camp holding a camouflage bag in front of your face and some dude is screaming his head off at you. The thought that’s probably running through your head sounds a lot like, “this is nothing like what my recruiter sold me on.” Well, it’s their job is to get you in — what did you expect?

You might go through the rest of your career believing that some dude in a cool-looking uniform lied to you during an otherwise innocent visit to your local shopping mall. And you know what? If this were any other decade, a time before the internet was easily accessible by anyone, you might actually have a believable story.

But in 2018, that just doesn’t fly. Your recruiter didn’t lie to you; you just didn’t do the research.

If you’ve signed up, you’ve got no excuse for failing to know the following:


In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

Just make sure it’s the best fit for you, either way.

If you match your branch of service

Not everyone is cut out to join the Marines; it’s a rough-and-tumble lifestyle that requires you to forsake most creature comforts. In fact, you may find that the branch that best suits you isn’t one you were considering at all.

If you’re unsure of what you want out of the military to even the slightest degree, consider each branch carefully. Next, consider the next item on this list.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

If want to join the Marines to purify water, more power to you…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels)

If you match your MOS

This is a big deal. A lot of people join the military and sign up for an MOS they’ve never even heard of because it “sounds cool” only to realize that it’s not at all what it it sounds like (looking at you, 1179 Water Dogs). Granted, some people end up liking their job, even if doesn’t match the title — but those who end being miserable are a detriment to the unit.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

Air Force PT in a nutshell.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)

The fitness requirements are (usually) demanding

If you’ve got a big brain but don’t like running a lot, join the Air Force. Rumor has it they only run in boot camp (and from the sound of gunfire, usually back into their air-conditioned buildings). If you want to join the Marines, but have a hard time doing push-ups, you’ll learn — but it will not be a fun experience.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

So, maybe you should decide on how long you want to get yelled at before you sign up.

(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

Boot camp and basic training suck

Marines call it boot camp because, well, you wear boots and you’re at camp (not the fun kind). The other branches call it basic training. Not only will you experience vary across branches, the amount of time you’ll spend there will, too. The “easier” branches go for 9 weeks at most and the toughest (and, in my non-biased opinion, most handsome) branch goes for 13.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

This may be the thing that changes your mind more than anything.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy D. Wolff)

Real-life experiences may vary

It may do you some good to ask about the experiences of friends or family members who’ve served and don’t look back on it with rose-tinted glasses. If your uncle’s tales seem a little too far-fetched, rummage around on Reddit and other online communities to get an idea of peoples’ general experiences in the branch you’re considering. The facts are out there if you look.

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

If you don’t do the research and you feel like you got screwed — that’s on you.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Duane Duimstra)

Recruitment tactics are tactical

Before you set foot into the recruiting office, keep this in mind: Recruiters are essentially the salespeople of the military. They’re not going to outright lie to you, but they’re trying to sell you on the service they represent.

The fact of the matter is that you should be able to recognize the tactics they’ll use to try and get you to sign up. Treat it like you would any other big decision. If the person you talk to is echoing things you’ve found in your research, they’re probably being honest.

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