In combat, logistic resources are arguably the most important assets needed to sustain soldiers. “Beans and Bullets” is a common Army phrase utilized for decades that puts a special emphasis behind the importance of logisticians and their capabilities.
Since arriving into theater soldiers of the 824th Rigger detachment, North Carolina National Guard, and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade have teamed up to tackle the demanding requirements of rigging equipment and air dropping resources to sustain the warfighter.
Aerial resupply operations is a valuable asset to U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. It is the most reliable means of distribution when ground transportation and alternate means have been exhausted. Aerial resupply enable warfighters in austere locations to accomplish their mission and other objectives.
“Aerial delivery is extremely vital and essential to mission success,” said Chief Warrant Officer Two Freddy Reza, an El Paso Texas native, and the senior airdrop systems technician with the 101st RSSB. “Soldiers in austere environments depend on us to get them food, water, and other resources they need to stay in the fight.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade load rigged pallets of supplies on to a C-130 aircraft. Soldiers conduct their final aerial inspection with Air Force loadmasters before delivery.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
All airdrop missions require approval authority through an operation order. Once approved, parachute riggers from both units work diligently to get the classes of supplies bundled and rigged on pallets for aerial delivery in under hours 24 hours.
Since arriving to Afghanistan, this team has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of supplies varying from food, water, and construction material. Mission dependent, sometimes the rigger support team is responsible for filling the request of more than three dozen bundles, carefully packing the loads and cautiously inspecting the pallets before pushing them out for delivery.
Aerial delivery operations have substantially contributed to the success of enduring expeditionary advisory packages and aiding the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade while they train, advise, and assist Afghan counterparts.
“This deployment has helped developed me to expand my knowledge as a parachute rigger,” said Spc. Kiera Butler, a Panama City, Florida native and Parachute Rigger with the 824th Quartermaster Company. “This job has a profound impact on military personnel regardless of the branch. I take pride in knowing I’m helping them carry out their mission.”
Item preservation is important; depending on the classes of supply, some items are rigged and prepared in non-conventional locations. Regardless of the location the rigger support team does everything in their power to ensure recipients receive grade “A” quality.
“During the summer months it would sometimes be 107 degrees, with it being so hot we didn’t want the food to spoil so we rigged in the refrigerator. This allowed the supplies to stay cold until it was time to be delivered,” said Butler. “It was a fun experience and we want to do whatever we can to preserve the supplies for the Soldiers receiving it.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade rigged several bundles of food and water at the Bagram, Afghanistan rigger shed. The rigged supplies will be loaded on to an aircraft and delivered to the requesting unit.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
The rigger support team continuously strives for efficiency. Through meticulous training, they have been able to execute emergency resupply missions utilizing Information Surveillance Reconnaissance feed. This capability allows the rigger support team to observe the loads being delivered, ensuring it lands in the correct location.
When they are not supplying warfighters with supplies, Reza and his team conduct rodeos to train, advise and assist members of the Afghan National Army logistical cell, and NATO counterparts on how to properly rig and inspect loads for aerial resupply.
“During training we express how important attention to detail is, being meticulous is the best way to ensure the load won’t be compromised when landing,” said Reza. “Overall it was a great opportunity to train and educate our Afghan National Army counterparts on aerial delivery operations.
This training will enable the Afghan National Army logistics cell to provide low cost low altitude — LCLA loads to their counterparts on the ground, utilizing C-208 aircrafts. This training is vital to the progress of the ANA logistics cell as they continue to grow and become more efficient.
Military members have their own inside humor that is often dark and quite hilarious. Then there are the cliche jokes that troops hear all the time. Often interchangeable (substitute an Air Force guy for an Army guy and it’s the same) and heard by your crusty old staff NCO, these jokes aren’t going away anytime soon.
These are the jokes we’ve all heard a million times.
1. A sailor tells a joke to Marines
A sailor in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, “hey, do you want to hear a Marine joke?” The guy responds, “well, before you tell that, you should know that I’m 6′ tall, 200 pounds, and I’m a Marine. The guy sitting next to me is 6′ 2″, weighs 250, and he’s also a Marine.”
“Now, you still wanna tell that joke?”
The sailor says, “Nah, I don’t want to have to explain it three times.”
2. The military pilot is the center of the universe
How many pilots does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one. He holds the bulb, and the world revolves around him.
3. The five most dangerous things in the Army (or Marines)- The most terrifying joke ever
A private saying “I learned this in boot camp…”
A sergeant saying “Just trust me sir…”
A second lieutenant saying “Based on my experience…”
A captain saying “I was just thinking…”
… and a warrant officer saying “Ok now watch this shit.”
4. The Sergeant Major who always uses military time…jokes on her?
A crusty old Sergeant Major found himself at a wedding when one of the bride’s guests approached him for conversation.
“Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?”
“Negative, ma’am,” he said. “Just serious by nature.”
The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said it looked like he had seen a lot of action.
“Yes, ma’am, a lot of action.”
The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, “you know, you should lighten up a little. Relax and enjoy yourself.”
The Sergeant Major just stared at her in his serious manner. Finally the young lady said, “you know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but when was the last time you had sex?”
“Well, there you are,” she responded. “No wonder you’re so serious. You really need to chill out and relax! I mean, no sex since 1955! Come with me.”
She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to relax him several times.
Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his grizzled bare chest and said, “wow, you sure didn’t forget much since 1955.”
After glancing at his watch, the Sergeant Major said in his serious voice, “I hope not. It’s only 2130 now.”
5. The silent professionals
How do you know if there is a Navy SEAL at the bar? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.
6. The urinal joke
A sailor and a Marine are both in the bathroom taking a piss. The sailor finishes up and washes his hands. The Marine gets done, and then immediately starts heading for the door. The sailor stops him and says, “in boot camp, they teach us to wash our hands after we take a leak.” The Marine replies, “in our boot camp, they teach us not to piss on our hands.”
Have any to add? Throw yours in the comments section!
Two Marine veterans playing “Pokemon Go” in a Los Angeles suburb on Jul. 12 ended up catching an attempted murder suspect instead of a Pikachu.
Javier Soch and Seth Ortega were hunting Pokemon near a museum when they saw a man who appeared to be scaring a woman and her three sons, according to reporting in the Los Angeles Times. The Marines talked to the man, who was agitated but coherent. He asked for cigarettes and shelter and the Marines told him to check the local police station for help.
The Marines kept their eyes on the man as he walked off. “We kept our distance. We didn’t want to alert the guy and escalate the situation,” Soch told reporter Matt Hamilton.
The man interacted with two more families. He continued to act suspiciously but did not do anything illegal — at first.
“[We] walked across the street and the gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts walking his way up to the knee,” Ortega told an ABC affiliate.
The veterans sprung into action. Soch stayed with the family while Ortega sprinted after the man. The man attempted to flee, but he couldn’t get away from the Marine.
He was arrested on suspicion of child annoyance, but the police then learned that the man had a warrant out for attempted murder in Sonoma, California. He will be extradited to face charges there.
More than a year after a mandate for the Pentagon opened previously closed ground combat and special operations jobs to women, officials say the Navy has its first female candidates for its most elite special warfare roles.
Two women were in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s all-enlisted Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in June.
Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and is set to complete an early step in the pipeline, special operations assessment and selection, later this summer, he said.
“That’s a three-week block of instruction,” Dunbar said. “Then the [prospective SEAL officer] will compete like everyone else, 160 [applicants] for only 100 spots.”
A spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Jason Salata, confirmed to Military.com this week that a single female enlisted candidate remained in the training pipeline for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, or SWCC. The accession pipeline for the job, he added, included several screening evaluations and then recruit training at the Navy’s Great Lakes, Illinois boot camp before Basic Underwater Demolition School training.
Salata also confirmed that a female midshipman is set to train with other future Naval officers in the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection, or SOAS, course this summer.
“[SOAS] is part of the accession pipeline to become a SEAL and the performance of attendees this summer will be a factor for evaluation at the September SEAL Officer Selection Panel,” he said.
Because of operational security concerns, Salata said the Navy would not identify the candidates or provide updates on their progress in the selection pipeline. In special operations, where troops often guard their identities closely to keep a low profile on missions, public attention in the training pipeline could affect a candidate’s career.
It’s possible, however, that the first female member of these elite communities will come not from the outside, but from within. In October, a SWCC petty officer notified their chain-of-command that they identified as being transgender, Salata confirmed to Military.com.
According to Navy policy guidance released last fall, a sailor must receive a doctor’s diagnosis of medical necessity and command approval to begin the gender transition process, which can take a variety of different forms, from counseling and hormone therapy to surgery. Sailors must also prove they can pass the physical standards and requirements of the gender to which they are transitioning.
These first female candidates represent a major milestone for the Navy, which has previously allowed women into every career field except the SEALs and SWCC community. A successful candidate would also break ground for military special operations.
Army officials said in January that a woman had graduated Ranger school and was on her way to joining the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, but no female soldier has made it through the selection process to any other Army special operations element. The Air Force and Marine Corps have also seen multiple female candidates for special operations, but have yet to announce a successful accession.
The two women now preparing to enter the Navy’s special operations training pipeline will have to overcome some of the most daunting attrition rates in any military training process
Dunbar said the SEALs, which graduate six Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL classes per year, have an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent, while the special boat operator community has an average attrition rate of 63 percent. The attrition rate for SEAL officers is significantly lower, though; according to the Navy’s 2015 implementation plan for women in special warfare, up to 65 percent of SEAL officer candidates successfully enter the community.
But by the time they make it to that final phase of training, candidates have already been weeded down ruthlessly. Navy officials assess prospective special warfare operators and special boat operators, ranking them by their scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, physical readiness test, special operations resiliency test, and a mental toughness exam. The highest-ranking candidates are then assessed into training, based on how many spots the Navy has available at that point.
“We assess right now that, with the small cohorts of females, we don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as expected attrition,” Dunbar, the Naval Special Warfare Center deputy commander, told DACOWITS in June.
Dunbar did say, however, that Naval Special Warfare Command was considered fully ready for its first female SEALs and SWCC operators, whenever they ultimately arrived. A cadre of female staff members was in place in the training pipeline, and the command regularly held all-hands calls to discuss inclusivity and integration.
“All the barriers have been removed,” he said. “Our planning has been completed and is on track.”
Salata said the Navy had also completed a thorough review of its curriculum and policies and had evaluated facilities and support capabilities to determine any changes that might need to be made to accommodate women. As a result, he said, minor changes were made to lodging facilities and approved uniform items.
Nonetheless, Salata said, “It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate. Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it may take months and potentially years.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated in the third paragraph to correct the school the SEAL officer candidate attends. She is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, not the Naval Academy.
The venerable Vietnam-era OH-58D Kiowa scout helicopters have done the job as the valued eyes and ears of the Army‘s 82nd Airborne Division, but today’s more complex battlefields demand the switchover to AH-64 Apaches, Col. Erik Gilbert said Monday.
In a telephone conference from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Gilbert, commander of the 82nd Airborne’s Combat Aviation Brigade, said the Army’s “last pure Kiowa Squadron,” now deployed to South Korea, is preparing for the switch.
When the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, returns to Fort Bragg early next year, the Kiowas will likely be available for foreign sales; some will be put in storage; and others may go to the National Guard, Gilbert said.
“This rotation will be the final Kiowa Warrior Squadron mission in the Army,” Gilbert said of the South Korea deployment. He praised the Kiowa’s versatility but said the Apache has more speed, durability and firepower, and “is just a far more capable platform.”
However, Gilbert acknowledged that the Apaches still can’t match the speed at which the smaller and lighter Kiowas can be deployed to a remote airfield and be in the air to provide cover and reconnaissance for ground troops.
Kiowas can go aboard C-130 Hercules aircraft and be in the air within a half hour of landing, Gilbert said, while the bigger and heavier Apaches aboard a C-17 Globemaster take three hours.
The difference, Gilbert said, is that the Kiowas can simply be pushed off the C-130 while the Apaches have to be winched out of the C-17 and “their blades fold up a little differently.”
“No other unit in the Army is capable of such rapid night-time employment of AH-64 Apaches,” Gilbert said, but “frankly, I think we can get faster.”
The great advantage of the Apaches will be their ability to marry up with expeditionary Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to provide commanders with more battlefield options.
“The UAS is a game-changer for us,” Gilbert said. The 82nd Airborne currently has the RQ-7 Shadow UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, which can be controlled by an Apache crewman to survey enemy positions and relay information to ground forces.
For commanders, “it gives them another data source,” Gilbert said.
In the coming months, the Combat Aviation Brigade also will be acquiring the MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS, similar to the Predator UAV, which has greater range, Gilbert said.
Against more advanced enemies, the Apaches tend to loiter low to avoid enemy radar, making it “harder for them to pick out targets,” Gilbert said, but the UAVs can provide that intelligence at less risk.
The transition from the Kiowa to the Apache was part of the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative, a five-year plan aimed at retiring “legacy systems” to make way for newer technologies.
The Kiowa first flew in 1966 and was used extensively from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kiowas first came to Fort Bragg in 1990.
Fantastic week, everyone! Plenty of hard-won success within the veteran and military community! The doctors at Johns Hopkins fought to give a wounded warrior a new penis, one of our own fought hard for his right to have a beard, and we fought to get tax exemption for disabled veterans with student loan forgiveness.
All this and no one fractured the community with a t-rex puppet or an article about how “millennials are killing the iron sight industry.” Your weekly meme brief is simple. Don’t do dumb sh*t; just keep making the vet and military community proud. Have a drink, you earned it.
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme by WATM)
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Infantry Army)
Friend: “Is that a gun in your pants or are you just happy to see me?”
Me, a 2A supporter: “Both”
This one got dark. We Are The Mighty does not condone the humanitarian catastrophes in Syria, but the U.S. cannot condone the use of chemical warfare…anyway…back to the memes…
They were one of the most powerful organizations in the world at their time, controlling wealth and military arms across the world. The Knights Templar were the first Christian religious military order, eventually growing to be one of the first international banking organizations, a massive military arm in the Holy Land, and the fodder for conspiracy theorists for literally hundreds of years.
The Knights Templar were established during the Crusades, largely because of the state of the Holy Land after the First Crusade. Military campaigns launched from 1095 to 1099 had secured small Christian kingdoms in and around Jerusalem, but these Christian enclaves didn’t have the strength of arms to properly hold their territory, let alone to protect pilgrims coming to the holy sites.
And so a small group of French knights banded together to protect pilgrims on the road. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem learned of this and offered them rooms in the royal palace, formerly the Temple of Solomon. This small group grew into the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.
Their duties protecting the pilgrims would become much easier, they knew if pilgrims weren’t carrying their life savings on their backs, and so the knights looked for a new method of finance.
What if, instead of having pilgrims bring all the cash and valuables they would need, pilgrims were able to deposit most of their money in Europe as they set out and then pick up a commensurate amount of money in the Holy Land after arrival. They established a program to do exactly that, turning the Knights Templar into the first international bank.
Their wealth and status grew, and they eventually received official sanction from Pope Innocent II in 1139 who not only said it was fine that a religious order had taken up military arms, but that the knights would be subject to the authority of the pope and the pope alone.
But the papal bull protecting the knights also set standards of conduct for them, requiring that they remain poor, live in dormitories, not raise children or embrace women, gamble, swear, or take part in many other activities, similar to monks. But, where monks were expected to spend much time reading and no time fighting, Templars were expected to train and fight while not being required to read.
As the Templars grew, they took on larger roles as a true military force, eventually growing into a sort of police/military force with a strong command structure and outposts across the Christian kingdoms.
But, unfortunately for them, the 13th Century went badly for Christians as new Crusades failed and Christian kingdoms were retaken by the sultans. The city of Acre was the last Crusader stronghold, and it fell to Muslim armies in 1291.
They were accused of heresy, sodomy, and other crimes in the late 1200s and early 1300s, and European rulers jealous of the order’s wealth and power eventually decided to seize Templars and divvy up their assets. Much of the Templars’ massive financial assets were handed over to the Knights Hospitallers, but some was kept by rulers like French King Philip IV who used it to refresh his own coffers.
The Knights Hospitallers, a religious order focused on providing medical services, was slightly older than the Knights Templar, but the Knights Hospitallers had acquired a military mission similar to that of the Knights Templar in the 12th Century, and so it was an obvious heir to the Templar wealth.
The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.
A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.
The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
A French air force Rafale B aircraft.
What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:
“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”
Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
An investigation is in progress.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
As the United States approaches two months in quarantine, people from all walks of life are starting to feel the effects of social distancing and continued isolation. Retired Air Force Lt. General Stanley E. Clarke III, his wife Rebecca and their daughter Kelly Reynolds, decided to change that narrative.
With an ice cream truck.
Reynolds shared that the family lives in a strong community committed to always supporting each other. Things like kids writing sweet words in chalk on the sidewalks and adults creating fun scavenger hunt games have been the norm during their quarantine. After listening to her mother describe neighborhood ice cream trucks to her 6-year-old son one day, she had an idea. “I turned to my mother and said we should take ice cream to everyone, that it would be so much fun,” said Reynolds.
The idea expanded to creating an actual ice cream truck using Clarke’s old Chevy Apache to distribute the sweet treats. All the grandchildren jumped in to help. Together, the family quickly went to work creating handmade signs and colorful decorations for the truck. They even fashioned a special tube for distribution so they could safely hand out ice cream while still practicing social distancing. Then they waited for a sunny day, spread the word and hit the road.
The excitement on the faces of all surprised by the ice cream truck was contagious. “It was like an infection of joy being spread. To be a part of it was so much fun and to know that what we did had an impact was incredible,” said Reynolds. She explained that their family resides in a quiet neighborhood in Kentucky, which is filled with medical personnel. Knowing that their surrounding community is battling the pandemic on the front lines made their idea to give back even more special and important to them.
Clarke agreed and shared that he was personally inspired by a group of military spouses who founded the GivingTuesdayMilitary movement. Three women, who were named “Spouse of the Year” for their respective branches, launched an initiative to inspire over one million intentional acts of kindness. Clarke is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Armed Forces Insurance, which owns the Military Spouse of the Year award program.
“This is exchanging ice cream for smiles because how many people are smiling out there, particularly during a crisis? How cool is that?” he said. Clarke said he feels that doing things like this can really make a difference, especially now. Reynolds expanded on that to explain that people really don’t need to do anything extravagant or big, but that it was the little things that truly matter.
Studies have shown that social isolation can eventually lead to poor health outcomes. The rapid progression of COVID-19 has forced states to implement social distancing and stay at home orders to save lives. Communities around the country are finding ways to come together to engage with each other safely while also inspiring hope with kindness. General Clarke and his family are one example, and they truly hope to inspire others to do the same.
“Find a small way to spread kindness and joy and just do it. It will impact people,” Reynolds said. She feels that these are the kinds of things that need to be seen on social media. Messages of kindness and hope to lift people during a time of fear. “The biggest impacts we can have on people are the ones we don’t even know we are creating,” she shared.
This family’s story of kindness is having an impact. Word is quickly spreading about their homemade family ice cream truck. Several leaders of military bases loved it so much that they talking about starting their own ice cream truck caravans. This demonstrates how one act can have a ripple effect, with no end in sight.
Since first coming into service in 1980, the M1 Abrams tank has become a staple of US ground forces. The 67-ton behemoth has since made a name for itself as an incredibly tough, powerful tool that has successfully transitioned from a Cold War-era blunt instrument to a tactical modern weapon.
The US as well as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Australia use the Abrams as their main battle tank.
When the Abrams finally saw combat in 1991, it impressed operators with it’s effective rounds and virtual invulnerability to Iraqi tank fire. No Abrams was destroyed by Iraqi tank fire during the Persian Gulf War.
In fact, the only Abrams lost during the Persian Gulf War were destroyed by friendly fire, sometimes on purpose so they couldn’t be reclaimed by Iraqi forces.
The Abrams benefited from having superior range and night-vision abilities compared to their Soviet-made counterparts.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Abrams became involved in urban warfare while clearing cities. Urban warfare is the worst situation for tanks, as their range is limited by buildings and they can be attacked from above, where their armor is weakest.
In his book “Heavy Metal: A Tank Company’s Battle to Baghdad” Maj. Jason Conroy reports a lopsided victory where an Abrams unit destroyed seven Soviet-made T-72 tanks at point-blank range with no losses on the US side.
Today, the Abrams remains the US’s main battle tank, one of the most successful tanks of all time, and the king of the battlefield.
Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement Sept. 26 that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes.
On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was already anticipating that the emergency funding approved in August may not last the full six months, according to spokespeople for both Republican and Democratic members on the panel. They cited the VA’s past problems in estimating Choice program cost. That committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they were closely monitoring the situation.
“It’s disheartening,” said Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, citing his group’s continuing conversations with VA about Choice funding. “Imagine if a veteran has to cease chemotherapy treatment during Christmas.”
Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters, said recent discussions with VA also gave him little confidence.
“It’s always a concern,” Augustine said. “Legislative action needs to be done sooner rather than later.”
In its statement to The Associated Press, VA said it could not say for certain when Choice funds would be depleted, but acknowledged that it could be as early as December or as late as March. Earlier this year, the VA began limiting referrals to outside doctors as money began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.
The VA proposal for a long-term fix is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
“We have a long agenda, a lot more to do,” VA Secretary David Shulkin told veterans last week at an event near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This fall, our major legislative focus is getting the Choice program working right.”
The latest funding woes come amid political disagreement over the future direction of VA and its troubled Choice program, which was passed by Congress in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center that spread nationwide. Some veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees manipulated records to hide delays. The controversy spurred Congress to establish Choice as a pilot program designed to relieve pressure at VA hospitals.
Choice currently allows veterans to receive outside care if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. But the program has encountered long delays of its own.
In a sign of a political divide, the left-leaning VoteVets ran a $400,000 ad campaign earlier this month in 13 states that warned viewers, “Don’t let Trump privatize my VA.” The American Federation of Government Employees has been staging rallies to bring attention to VA job vacancies left unfilled.
The VA said it remains committed to filling agency positions even as it finalizes plans to revamp Choice. VA said it had about 34,000 vacancies, which officials attributed in part to a shortage of health professionals.
Legislative proposals to fix VA have run the gamut, including one backed by the conservative Concerned Veterans for America that would give veterans almost complete freedom to see an outside doctor. Another plan could create a presidential commission to review closing some VA medical centers.
“Congress can either double-down on the failed VA policies of the past or they can go in a different direction and empower veterans with more choice over their health care,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA by bringing accountability and expanding access to private doctors, criticizing the department as “the most corrupt.” At an Ohio event in July, Trump promised to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice.”
More than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.
Carrie Farmer, senior policy researcher for the RAND Corp., said the Choice debate raises broader questions about the role of government-run health care in treating veterans. To many former troops, the VA health system is a “medical home” where patients feel more understood by doctors specially trained to treat battlefield injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Significantly expanding Choice could upend that government role as caretaker, she said.
“The big question is ultimately who will be responsible for our veterans’ care?” Farmer said.
On a Sunday a little over 12 years ago, on a battlefield far from home, US Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding, then in his mid-20s, suddenly found himself in an intense firefight that changed his life forever.
The mission was to capture or kill a local terrorist leader holed up in a mountain fortress occupied by Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin forces in eastern Afghanistan.
The plan was to insert US Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos into a valley below by helicopter and take the enemy by surprise. Once they were on the ground, the joint force was expected to climb into the mountains on foot, infiltrate the town, neutralize the hostiles, and get out.
Some of the troops called to execute the mission questioned whether it was too risky. Their concerns were brushed aside, and the mission moved forward as planned. A fellow Green Beret who went with Walding on the mission told Insider it was “cursed” from the start.
This is the story of not just that fateful mission, but Walding’s refusal to give up after tragedy struck.
John Wayne Walding and Ryan Wallen, a fellow Green Beret who accompanied Walding on the fateful mission. (Courtesy photo)
‘A very long day at the office’
On April 6, 2008, a handful of troops with Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group and a number of Afghan commandos flew into Shok Valley. It was the start of what Walding called “a very long day at the office.”
Shok Valley (US Army graphic)
Their troubles began almost immediately upon arrival.
“We couldn’t even land, the terrain was so f—ing bad,” Walding’s friend and fellow Green Beret, former Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallen, recalled. “Our helicopter just kind of hovered about 10 feet up over a freezing cold river and gigantic rocks, and we had to jump out of the back. This was already a rough start.”
Their situation quickly got worse. As the lead element made its way toward the objective, the mountains suddenly erupted with gunfire. A large force of several hundred enemies ambushed the American and Afghan troops, upending the mission and turning it into a terrifying fight for survival.
“Gunfire just opened up on us,” Wallen said. He was positioned down by the river near the base of the mountain when the bullets started to fly.
“I took a [rocket-propelled grenade] and kind of got blown out,” Wallen continued. “I was laying half in the water, bleeding out of my throat and chest, beaten up a little bit. The overpressure kind of f—ed me up.”
Nothing vital had been damaged in the blast, so the team’s medic, Staff Sgt. Ron Shurer, was able to get him patched up and back in the fight. Farther up the mountain, the lead element was pinned down and taking heavy fire.
An Afghan interpreter had been killed, and two US soldiers, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr and Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, were severely wounded. Supporting, Walding moved into position between them and the incoming fire. “That’s when I got shot,” he said.
An enemy sniper shot Walding in the leg, nearly tearing it from his body. “It was hanging on by like a tendon or two,” Wallen said. “I’ve never seen an injury that looked that bad.”
“I never will forget falling forward and then rolling over to see that leg just hanging there by only about an inch of flesh,” Walding recalled. “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Walding was not done fighting though. After putting a tourniquet in place to stop the bleeding, he used his boot laces to strap the bottom part of his leg to his thigh, picked up his rifle, and got back to it.
Most of the US Special Forces team suffered wounds of one kind or another, but “as f—ed up as everybody was, we didn’t have time for anybody to lay there bleeding and dying,” Wallen said.
American planes were called into conduct dozens of danger-close airstrikes with large bombs that Walding said blacked out the sun with debris.
Unable to move forward with their mission, the US and Afghan troops fought fiercely for hours just to stay alive until they could be pulled out.
Wallen and a few others helped get Walding down the mountain and to the evacuation point. “As the medevac birds were coming in, we were dragging casualties across the river, and it was freezing,” he said.
They tried a couple of times to get Walding on a helicopter but were unsuccessful, as the helos were either full or taking rounds, and each time they failed, they had to carry him back across the river to a safe position shielded from the gunfire.
“Finally, a third bird came in, and we took JW back across the river a fifth time,” Wallen said. “We were finally able to get him on that bird, but we ended up giving John hypothermia along with all of his damn injuries. It was like bad things kept stacking up.”
All of the US troops that went into Shok Valley made it out alive. Some of the Afghans, however, did not. Although they were unable to complete the mission, the US and Afghan forces left behind hundreds of enemy dead.
Ten members of Walding’s team, himself included, would later be awarded the Silver Star. Not since Vietnam had that many Silver Stars been awarded for a single engagement. And, two of the soldiers who were in Shok Valley later received the Medal of Honor for their courage under fire.
The immediate aftermath was no celebration though. Walding, who had hoped that his leg could be saved, went into surgery. “I never will forget waking up the next day,” he recalled. He said he was afraid to look down. When he finally did, he cried.
John Wayne Walding (US Army Photo by Capt. David Chace)
‘A leg was not going to stop me’
John Wayne Walding was born on the Fourth of July in Texas. His father named him after the famous actor who starred in classic Westerns and war movies because, in his words, if “you have a cool birthday, you need a cool name.”
But while Walding was named after the man who directed and starred in the 1968 film “The Green Berets,” he never thought much about the military until he was about 20 years old and realized he needed a real job.
Walding talked to a recruiter who asked him if he wanted to shoot missiles. He said “Hell yeah” and joined the Army as a Patriot missile operator.
He found his true calling after he joined up though. “As soon as I saw the Green Berets and what the tip of the spear really is, that really got my gears spinning,” he told Insider.
Wallen met Walding when the latter joined his team as a Green Beret, and they quickly became good friends.
“It was one of those connections that, just right away, we just kind of hit it off,” Wallen said. “We developed a really strong bond, and then it was just solidified when we were baptized in blood together.”
Wallen said he was one of the first people to see Walding when he came out of surgery after being wounded in Shok Valley.
Walding had been torn apart in battle, something not easily overcome, something that some never overcome, but he determined he was not done being an elite soldier. “Donning that Green Beret was one of the most profound moments of my life, and a leg was not going to stop me from doing that,” he told Insider.
Being a Green Beret meant being a part of something special, something meaningful that’s bigger than any one person. Reflecting on the events that unfolded in Shok Valley, Walding said, “We didn’t get through that day because I was great or any of our guys. It was because we were willing to fight to the death to keep each other alive.”
“You don’t just wake up the day after all of that and say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll hang up the hat.'”
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘You do it because you love it’
Walding said that he tries to live his life in such a way that he is not simply good, but great. Following his recovery, he decided to become a Special Forces sniper.
Just two years after he sustained a life-altering injury, Walding began the intense seven-week Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina equipped with a ruggedized prosthetic and a determination to excel against all odds.
“Why did I keep going? Because I loved it,” Walding said.
“You don’t do what I did because you like it. You do it because you love it,” he continued. “To become a Green Beret, there’s a lot of people that quit because they just liked it. They liked the idea of being one, but that’s not how I live.”
Snipers are essential assets who provide battlefield intelligence and long-range precision fires, and the training is challenging across the military.
For the Special Forces, sniper training can be even more demanding. Through shooting and marksmanship sessions, gun runs, stalking, fast rope training, and climbing exercises, Walding held his own despite his prosthetic. “I never finished last,” he said.
Walding made history in the summer of 2010 by becoming the first amputee to graduate from the elite special warfare sniper course.
“His story is incredible,” Wallen said. “I don’t know that many people on the planet have the kind of resilience he does.” That’s not to say that there weren’t bad days, but when times got tough, it was his faith, family and friends, and love of country that got him through.
Walding wanted to return to his team and operational status, but he ultimately decided against it, opting instead to stay on as an instructor.
“I knew that no matter how good I was with one leg, a Green Beret with two was always going to be better,” Walding told Insider, explaining that he would never want to be in a scenario where one of his brothers or sisters was injured or killed because of him. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” he said.
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘Forever remember the cost of freedom’
After serving 12 years in the military, Walding retired in 2013 as a Sergeant First Class. He now lives in Texas with his wife and four kids.
As a civilian, Walding continues to serve.
He started Gallantry Global Logistics, a company named after the words on the back of his Silver Star, which reads “for gallantry in action.” He hopes to see it become the largest veteran employer in Texas. He is also the co-founder of Live to Give, a water bottle company that donates half of all profits to veteran and first responder charities.
Walding named his shipping company after his Silver Star, but the Purple Heart he was awarded for the injuries he suffered in Afghanistan has tremendous meaning too.
“I wear that Purple Heart figuratively every day,” Walding said. “Every single day, I wake up and I see my leg is missing. I will forever remember the cost of freedom. It really is a driving factor for me to not be good, but be great.”