Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation’s third highest award for valor for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, 2019, the service announced Nov. 18, 2019.

AFSOC spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo said the award is for his total service during a 2018 deployment alongside an Army special forces team in support of the Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.


Smith was also named the “2019 Airman of the Year” by Air Force Times. As part of the award, the paper interviewed Smith and detailed his actions.

Serving as the sole joint terminal attack controller, or JTAC, during a two-week long mission, Smith and the joint Army and Afghan teams were sent out to disperse Taliban forces that had created a stronghold in the Maymana village in northwest Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2018.

TSgt Cody Smith: Air Force Times Airman of the Year

www.youtube.com

En route to the area, the forces, which included Green Berets, lacked aerial cover due to poor weather conditions, but pressed on despite roadblocks and dozens of improvised explosive devices hidden within rubble along the path to slow their progress, according to Air Force Times.

The groups were immediately met with machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades when they got to the village.

Smith called in nearby AH-64 Apache helicopters, as well as F-16 Fighting Falcons that dropped “multiple precision guided 500-pound bombs engaging as close as 90 meters away,” Air Force officials said.

The firefight went on for nearly 10 hours.

Exactly one week later, pushing forward to Shirin Tagab just due north of Maymana, Smith and the teams were met by an overwhelming force — nearly 600 Taliban fighters amassing on the village’s southern flank. The fighters once again set up roadblocks and IEDs to slow the U.S. troops’ convoy before another fierce battle broke out — this time with mortars.

Smith told Air Force Times the scene turned to chaos as dozens of civilians ran up to the troops for help to save their children wounded in the firefight.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith.

(Air Force photo)

Smith tried to get medical aid all while protecting the convoy. First hit in his body armor, Smith kept firing.

Mortars rained down, and one exploded two meters away from his position, resulting in a severe concussion. When Smith awoke, he declined medical attention and fought for five more hours, Air Force Times reported, before an RPG hit his vehicle.

For a second time, he turned medics away to keep fighting, the paper said.

Smith called in 11 danger-close strikes amid the pandemonium during that Oct. 14 mission, resulting in 195 enemy fighters killed and 18 fighting positions destroyed. He aided in saving American and Afghan lives, and even helped medevac a wounded team member, Air Force Times said.

“[He] remained with his team for the 14-hour vehicle movement back to friendly lines to ensure their safety,” the Air Force said Monday.

The service has awarded 11 Air Force Crosses and 48 Silver Star Medals to Special Tactics airmen. Last year, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, also a combat controller, and promoted Chapman to master sergeant.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD making steady progress on Space Force plans

Space is a crucial domain that the United States must continue to exploit and lead in, said Vice President Mike Pence at the fourth meeting of the National Space Council at Fort Lesley J. McNair on Oct. 24, 2018.

“Space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Pence said. “And America will be as dominant there as we are, here on Earth.”

This is the basis for President Donald J. Trump’s creation of the United States Space Force, which would be the sixth branch of the military, the vice president said.


Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called this “the next and natural evolution” of America’s military. The new service “is absolutely necessary to ensure American supremacy in space,” he said. “The U.S. military is the best in the world in space, but our adversaries have taken note and are actively developing and fielding capabilities to potentially deny our usage of space in crisis or war.”

Space Force

Also pushing this is the growth in capacity and capabilities of the commercial space industry, which has moved forward in ways never imagined, Shanahan said. “President Trump has directed that a response to the threats from adversaries and the opportunities of commercial space be combined to generate a solution — the Space Force,” he said.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.

The department will submit a legislative proposal in the coming weeks, and the deputy secretary called that “a significant lift.”

“The legislative proposal will embody our guiding principles, speed and effectiveness,” he said. “Speed in leveraging commercial space technology and resources. Speed in escaping red tape. Speed in fielding capabilities sooner. It will reflect our drive to be more effective — effective in maximizing how we are more integrated technically to unlock our ability to be united in our space operations. Effective in creating a solution, and then together — not singularly — leveraging the solutions across the enterprise. Effective in how we structure the Space Force.”

DOD is considering the cost of the venture.

Space Development Agency

The department is also working on the Space Development Agency. The agency will leverage technology, standards, and architecture to enable unparalleled integration, he said. “The effort now is on reconciling capabilities prioritized by the National Defense Strategy with the readiness of technology, anchored by our assumptions on how quickly we can scale,” Shanahan said.

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the council that all members of the Joint Chiefs support the stand up of a combatant command for space. The command will focus DOD activities and the department’s development of doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures in the domain. The command will also focus discussions on “the authorities, responsibilities, and rules of engagement for conduct in space, for the conduct of defensive and offensive operations to protect our constellation, to fight our constellation, and to support our war fighters in all domains, and across all domains, as we protect our ability to deploy civil, commercial, and military space, to the benefit of the nation,” Selva said.

Seeking strategic advantage

This is needed, said Sue Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence. “The intelligence community applauds the redoubled emphasis on ensuring and protecting our strategic advantage in this domain that is so necessary to our national interests,” she said. “But it’s a strategic advantage that our adversaries and competitors would seek to diminish.

Intelligence analysts believe Russia and China continue to focus on establishing operational forces designed to attack U.S. space systems. “Space is a priority warfighting domain for them, as demonstrated by the creation of dedicated space organizations over the past several years,” she said. “Russian and Chinese destructive antisatellite weapons will probably reach initial operating capability in the next few years. And both these countries are advancing directed energy weapons technologies for the purpose of fielding anti-satellite weapons that could blind or damage our sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.”

Russia and China also continue to launch experimental satellites to advance counter-space capabilities. “If a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would probably justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” she said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a US Marine eloped with a Princess from Bahrain

There are roughly 8,500 U.S. personnel stationed at the Navy’s base in Bahrain. In 1999, one of those, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson, faced a court-martial and legal battle to wed his beloved girlfriend, a Bahraini local named Meriam. The Marine met Meriam at a local mall and, over the objections of her family, the two continued their love affair.

The biggest problem is that Meriam’s full name is Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa, and she was a member of the royal family’s house of Khalifa. So, when Lance Cpl.Johnson smuggled her out of Bahrain and into the United States, it was kind of a big deal.


Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

It wasn’t just that she was a member of the royal family, her family’s Islamic faith was incompatible with Johnson’s Mormon beliefs. She was forbidden to marry a non-Muslim, by both her religion and her family. There was also an age difference, as Johnson was 23 years old and Meriam al-Khalifa was just 19.

There were a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t have gotten married, but with the help of a friend, they still managed to exchange letters. Their affection for one another only grew.

Until it was time for Johnson to return to the United States.

Undeterred by things like “passports” and “legal documents,” he snuck the girl into the United States with forged documents and a New York Yankees baseball hat. By the time they landed in Chicago, U.S. immigration officials were waiting for Meriam, and took her into custody.

Meriam was held for three days by customs and immigration officials. Eventually, she was granted asylum as she worried about the possibility of honor-related violence if she returned to her family.

“She does not believe that she can go back and be safe at this time,” her lawyer, Jan Bejar said at an official hearing. “All the woman did is try to leave a country that does not allow her to live with the person she wants to live with.”
Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

The couple also made the talk show circuit.

(The Oprah Winfrey Show)

They were married just a few weeks after arriving in the United States. Weeks later, her family sent a letter, forgiving her for eloping, but not mentioning her new husband. For a while, the two lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton, but when the Marines found out what had happened, they were understandably upset with Johnson. He was court-martialed, demoted, and eventually left the Corps.

The two settled down to live their lives together in the Las Vegas area where Johnson got a job as a valet, parking cars for wealthy nightclub patrons — patrons like Meriam’s family. The al-Khalifa family hadn’t forgotten about Meriam or Johnson. The FBI alleged that the family paid an assassin half a million dollars to find Meriam and kill her.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

But their married life wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. Johnson told the Associated Press that al-Khalifa was more interested in partying in Las Vegas than she was in enjoying life with her husband, spending the money they made from selling their story to a made-for-TV movie called, The Princess and the Marine. By 2003, the whirlwind romance came to a dead stop, buried in the Las Vegas desert.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

The cast of ‘The Princess and the Marine.’

Johnson filed for divorce in 2004, saying “it was what she wanted.”

Deep down inside, she knows that I loved her more than anything in the world,” Johnson told the AP. “I can say I enjoyed every minute I spent with her.”
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Everything you need to know about the hospital ship heading to New York—and the ones that might replace it

Typically, hospital ships are large. The two currently in service, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), are behemoths of the ocean, sporting designs based on supertankers.

Just how big are these vessels? According to Military Sealift Command, the Mercy and Comfort are almost 900 feet long, displace 69,552 tons, and have over 1,000 beds for wounded troops. They were purchased and converted in the 1980s and one is based on each coast of the United States.


Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

(US Navy)

Unfortunately, time wins out eventually, and these ships are getting up there in age — both started life as a supertanker more than four decades ago and have been used as medical ships for the last 30. Not only are these ships old, they’re also fairly alone in military service. With just two hospital ships in service, the military runs the risk of entering something similar to the Coast Guard’s heavy icebreaker situation. The Mercy and Comfort are also slow — they can reach a top speed of 17 knots. What did you expect? Supertankers aren’t known for their speed.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

The Military Sealift Command’s joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) patrols the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenan O’Connor)

So, it should come as no surprise that the Navy wants to replace them. But how? Well, at SeaAirSpace 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, Austal presented an interesting idea. This is the company responsible for the Independence-class littoral combat ships and the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports. Austal thinks a modified version of the latter could do the job.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A model of Austal’s proposal for a new hospital ship based on the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports.

(Harold Hutchison)

Now, the modified Spearhead has a lot less capacity (maybe 6 critical-care beds and another 12 hospital beds), but it is faster and there would likely be more than two. As a hospital ship, it remains unarmed — because nobody, in theory, is to shoot at it (doesn’t always work in practice). The model at SeaAirSpace 2018 was, like Mercy and Comfort, painted white and marked with the Red Cross.

It remains to be seen if these small, fast, hospital ships will end up on the high seas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Community providers: How to submit medical documentation to VA

VA strives to provide Veterans with seamless care and encourages community providers to support these efforts by the timely submission of medical documentation within 30 days of providing services.

One of the best ways for community providers to submit medical documentation is to use HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM), the main system VA uses for managing referrals, authorizations and medical documentation exchange.


Dr. Megan Stauffer, a community provider at In-Home Care Connection in Sterling, Ill., shares her positive experience with HSRM. “It has drastically cut down phone calls and faxes that I’m having to receive daily, because now all the information I need is there at my fingertips.”

In addition to HSRM, VA offers more options for community providers to submit Veteran medical documentation. Community providers can:

Using convenient electronic options to send medical documents to VA enables you to comply with the 30-day requirement for medical documentation submission.

Visit our care coordination page and review our Medical Submission Requirements Fact Sheet for details on what documentation should be submitted for care coordination purposes based on the type of service provided.

Thank you for your commitment to caring for our nation’s Veterans.

Resources

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s military to end side hustles and focus on war fighting

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to put an end to paid service activities once and for all and focus on combat readiness as the commander-in-chief attempts to build a world-class fighting force by mid-century.

In an effort to fulfill a pledge first made three years ago, Xi instructed the armed services on July 31, 2018, to halt all commercial activities, such as “kindergarten education, publishing services, and real estate rentals,” before the year’s end, Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 1, 2018, citing China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.


Xi called for the cessation of practices that have led troops and officers to become “mercenaries for hire,” the Asia Times reported , citing the PLA Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese armed services. He reportedly stressed that the move is intended to improve the military by allowing it to “focus on its main mission of battle readiness” through concentrated efforts to strengthen war preparation and fighting ability.

Short on funds, the Chinese military began engaging in commercial activities after the reform and opening up period in the 1970s, but such activities were, with certain exceptions, prohibited by 1998. The Chinese president’s new directive “allows no exception, discount or makeshift compromise,” Xinhua explained, noting that the aim is to purify the military and reduce corruption by eliminating commercial perks and moonlighting opportunities for members of the armed services.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Chinese President Xi Jinping

(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defense,” National Defense University professor Gong Fangbin told the Chinese state-affiliated outlet Global Times in March 2016 when Xi first announced plans to eliminate the military’s paid services activities. At that time, he argued that ending paid services would enhance “the military’s combat capability.”

The Chinese military had put an end to 106,000 paid service programs by June 30, 2018, according to the China Daily.

The Chinese president’s announcement on July 31, 2018, came on the eve of China’s Army Day celebrations, when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army turned 91.

Xi, as the leader of China and head of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, stressed his goal of building a world-class military that can win wars in any theater of combat by 2050 in his speech before the 19th Communist Party Congress in October 2017, stating, “China’s dream of a strong national army will be realized” with mechanization completed by 2020 and modernization finished by 2035.

While the Chinese military has grown stronger, especially with the development of new military technologies and systems, expert observers like Adam Ni, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, argue that China’s military continues to struggle to overcome certain lingering problems, including a lack of combat experience, extensive corruption, limited discipline, and nascent power projection capabilities.

Other countries, the US in particular, are watching carefully as China strives to bolster its national military power. “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated when the 2018 National Defense Strategy was released, highlighting the threat posed by “revisionist” powers like China and Russia.

Prior to his departure as head of what is now Indo-Pacific Command, then-Adm. Harry Harris reiterated that China is the greatest challenge facing the US. “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia,” he said in May 2018.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Arnold Schwarzenegger drives the same tank he trained on in the Army

It’s not bravado, it’s not some Hollywood publicity stunt, and it sure as hell isn’t special effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger not only owns a tank, he knows how to drive it and operate it in every possible way. It wouldn’t have done him much good in the Army if he didn’t know how to use its weapons. But the tank he has is a special one – to him, anyway.

The Terminator’s tank is the same one he used to learn his tank skills while serving in the Austrian Army.


Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Schwarzenegger (left, duh) in his Army days.

Austria is one of few countries in Europe to have mandatory civil or military service upon graduating from high school at age 18. A young Arnold Schwarzenegger, never one to shirk his duties, did what he had to do. He joined up and became a tanker in the Austrian National Army in 1965. His tank is a 1951 M-47 Patton tank, designed for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to take the place of the Pershing tank in the early days of the Cold War.

He’s owned his tank since 1991, paying ,000 to have it shipped from Austria.

The 50-ton behemoth uses a V-12 Chrysler twin turbo gas engine and cranks out 810 horsepower for a max speed of 30 miles per hour and a whopping 2.3 miles per gallon. But Schwarzenegger doesn’t use it to get around the streets of Southern California.

He uses it to keep kids in school.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Disadvantaged or at-risk students come to Schwarzenegger’s home to check out the tank and have fun with him in a series of after-school programs. The ones who stay in school get to drive the tank. With Arnold. And maybe even driving it over a few cars.

He even put a day in the tank up as an Omaze reward, offering donors to The After-School All-Stars Program the chance to crush stuff and “blow sh*t up” with him. Before that, the tank was housed at the Motts Military Museum in Ohio. In 2008, the then-Governor of California decided his role would soon include driving over a few jalopies to support youth enrollment. The program has been ongoing ever since.

MIGHTY FIT

49ers star gives Super Bowl tickets to Gold Star family

San Francisco 49ers super star tight end George Kittle announced on Twitter that he gave two tickets to attend Super Bowl LIV to the family of fallen Army Sergeant Martin “Mick” LaMar.


Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

https://twitter.com/gkittle46/status/1220397761352200192?s=21

According to the Associated Press, LaMar joined the Marines and served for four years after graduating high school in 1986. Following a decade of working as an electrician and with an armored truck company, LaMar joined the Army in 2007 despite relatives’ efforts to talk him out of the decision. His brother-in-law Gilbert Alvarado told the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee that LaMar “wanted to go back.”

“He wanted to fight for his country,” Alvarado said.

According to Military Times, LaMar was assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas and died Jan. 15, 2011 in Mosul of wounds sustained when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which he was training shot him with small-arms fire. Also killed was Sgt. Michael P. Bartley.

LaMar was a “great guy with a big heart” who loved his family, according to his brother-in-law, LaMar died on his wedding anniversary. His next leave was set to start Jan. 30, 2011, and he would have seen his three-month-old daughter for the first time then.

Kittle donated the two tickets to LaMar’s wife, Josephine, who will be bringing her and Mick’s son to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.

“The work I do with the USAA and the TAPS organization is something I really have kind of fallen in love with,” Kittle said (via the Sacramento Bee). “I have a lot of family in the military, so it’s something that I just respect, and the sacrifice that they give is the ultimate sacrifice. So if I can ever give back and make a family’s day or just make them smile a little bit, then I’ve just done a little part in their lives.”

The Salute to Service’s mission is to be a year-round effort to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. It is grounded in deep partnerships with nonprofits and organizations that support the military community in the United States and across the world. In partnership with USAA, the NFL expands Salute to Service off the field to honor and recognize our military by bringing players and team personnel to military bases, hosting thousands of service members at NFL games and events, and enlisting NFL fans to show military appreciation. Learn more about the Salute to Service and their NFL experience at Super Bowl LIV, here.

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6 things veterans never want to hear while at the VA

Being a patient at the VA can be one hell of an emotional experience. Every time we set foot inside the facility, we arrive with low expectations but we still hope for the best possible outcome. Although some VA hospitals do provide some excellent service to our nation’s finest, more than one branch has created a negative impression upon the veteran community.

In fact, many veterans decide to prolong seeking treatment as long as possible due to the lack of quality service that has been marketed in the news and other media outlets.


Having witnessed undedicated Veterans Affairs workers for ourselves, adverse situations could be avoided if specific sentences were kept at a minimum.

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You cancelled what?

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“Sorry, but we had to cancel your appointment”

It can be difficult enough to get a VA appointment with all the long lines and lack of staff. We understand that sh*t happens and some schedules have to be rearranged. But one of the things that frustrates veterans the most is making their way to a location just to learn that their appointment has been canceled and “someone” tried contacting them.

“Your claim was unfortunately denied.”

Getting denied for compensation sucks! Especially when it’s for an ailment you proved you have time-and-time again. In our experience, vets usually get turned down by a panel of civilians that they’ve never met. They’re being judged solely on what is written on a piece of paper by a third-party who have very little actual knowledge about the condition.

Sometimes, it just isn’t fair.

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“We couldn’t find anything wrong with you, so you’re free to go.”

What the f*ck?

That’s usually the first thing that enters a veteran’s mind. It’s no secret that the VA tends to issue a long list of mental health medications the first few visits. Since veterans only get to see a VA doc every few weeks or months, in our perspective, they’re not exactly getting treatment that is in-depth enough for a proper diagnosis.

“There are no appointments available for at least eight weeks.”

It’s common to be told that you can’t see a doctor for another few weeks. In the civil sector, seeing your family physician might only take a few hours to a few days for a time slot to open up. Many vets are already stressed out enough, and waiting weeks or months for treatment — while knowing what will happen or where we’re going to be in that time — troubles us.

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Oh, we know.

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“The current hold time is approximately 90 minutes… or more.”

No words can lower the frustration of hearing that time-and-time again. We’re accustomed to the “hurry up and wait” scenario, but when it comes to medical treatment, we expect to be seen relatively close to our appointment time.

Waiting for hours and hours to be seen even though we made an appointment just sucks.

“You just need to get 18 different signatures from 20 other departments — then we can sign you off.”

Yes, we know that “18 different signatures from 20 other departments” doesn’t make complete sense.

The point is, making something overly complicated feels like a tactical decision meant to discourage follow-up — and it works. Many vets just give up and don’t seek the treatment they need.

MUSIC

The unexpected history of the hilarious ‘Spirit of 76’ meme

The historic piece of art that’s featured in the hilarious meme showcasing three marching Revolutionary War musicians has a long, long history. While it might not date as far back as the Revolutionary War, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to learn it was inspired by and modeled after drunken American war veterans.


Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Ohioan Archibald Willard was a Civil War veteran who enlisted with the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, the 86th saw action at the Battle of the Cumberland Gap and headed off Confederate General John Hunt Morgan as he made the furthest incursion northward during the war, but it only lost 37 men total — all due to disease. Willard began to draw pictures of the things he saw as he moved with the unit. He and a business partner began to finish and sell the drawings throughout the war.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Archibald Willard, Civil War veteran and creator of “The Spirit of ’76.”

Before moving back to Cleveland, Willard studied art in New York City. He stayed for a number of years, but it was back in his native Ohio that Willard was inspired to paint a humorous picture he called, “Yankee Doodle.” It was the first incarnation of what would become his most famous and celebrated work, with three Revolutionary War musicians marching in tune to their martial music. But this first pass was less of a serious work and more of a funny comic-book painting.

The original featured three natives of Wellington, Ohio — all slightly intoxicated veterans of the War of 1812 — goofing around and creating mock battles with instruments in the town square. He also used Wellingtonians as models to paint the patriots seen in the famous painting. These models included his father, the Reverend Samuel Willard, fellow Civil War veteran Hugh Mosher as the fife player, and a local named Henry Devereaux, a military academy cadet and the son of a local railroad president, as the drummer boy.


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Willard drew the original as a comic scene, but a friend who saw his sketch suggested that Willard take it a little more seriously, perhaps draw it up with a patriotic theme. The idea intrigued Willard because it was outside the realm of anything he’d ever done before. He preferred to paint landscapes and comical scenes of everyday life. Thinking back to old stories his grandfather would tell him about fighting in the American Revolution, Willard created an eight-by-ten foot masterpiece, re-titled “The Spirit of ’76.”

“The Spirit of ’76” first went on display in 1876 as part of a celebration of the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Willard went on to paint several different versions of the painting but there were none so iconic or reproduced in American culture than the original. In the years following the Civil War, years characterized by mixed feelings, resentment, and Reconstruction, “The Spirit of ’76” was a work of art that evoked a shared sense of national unity.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

And lived on in many different iterations.

After the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the original painting was sold to General John H. Devereux, father of the drummer boy in the painting, who took it to his home in Marblehead, Mass. where it remains on display to this day. The drum used by the younger Devereux and Hugh Mosher’s fife can be seen in the Spirit of ’76 Museum in Wellington, Ohio.

Military Life

Why the term ‘every Marine is a rifleman’ needs to stop

The 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alfred M. Gray Jr., once stated, “Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary.” The problem here is that being a skilled shooter doesn’t equate to knowing how to handle the job of an infantry rifleman.


To be fair, when the statement was issued, it was probably true. In a type of war where the battlefield is all around you and every soul out there is equally subject to the harvest of death, like the Vietnam War, grunts were taking many casualties on the front lines. The powers that be had to start pulling Marines from POG jobs to be riflemen to fill the ranks.

But, in the modern era, the more accurate statement is, “every Marine knows how to shoot a rifle,” because they’re taught to do so in boot camp. But being a Marine rifleman is so much more than just shooting a gun well.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Related: 6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

Now, it’s important to note that there are plenty of POGs who can shoot better than grunts but, if all it takes to be a rifleman is accurately firing a weapon in a comfortable, rested, and stable position, then why have the Infantry Training Battalion?

Why spend so much time and money to teach a Marine to be a rifleman if they learn the skills they need in boot camp? It’s because the job of the rifleman is not so simple. What POGs need to understand is that when they don’t know the fundamentals well enough, they become a liability on patrol.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert B. Brown Jr.)

If you find a desk-bound POG who thinks they’re superior because of their shooting ability, ask them the preferred entry method of a two-story building. Ask them what the dimensions of a fighting hole are and why. Chances are, they’ll try to remember something they learned back in Marine Combat Training, but won’t be able to. This is where the divide is — this is why riflemen are so annoyed with this statement. We know our job is much more complicated.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
Not that you would want to dig a fighting hole anyway… (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lukas Kalinauskas.)

General Alfred M. Gray Jr.’s iconic statement has become, frankly, kind of insulting to the job of the rifleman at this point. It’s really annoying, as a 21-year-old lance corporal walking around the base in a dress uniform with ribbons from deployment, to pass a 19-year-old POG sergeant with two ribbons that thinks, for some reason, that they’re better than you because of rank.

The rank deserves respect, absolutely, but when you sit there and think you rate because of rank, you’re an arrogant prick and no grunt is going to want to work with you.

The most annoying argument we hear is along the lines of, “I’m better than a grunt because I have to do their job and mine.” First off, it’s flat-out false. You don’t do our job; you do your job and the only time you get anywhere close to ours is the annual rifle range visit. And even then it’s immediately clear who the POGs are (hint: they’re the ones with the messed-up gear, usually no mount for night vision goggles, and rifles that look like they just came out of the box).

Second, if you were better than a grunt, you wouldn’t look so damn lost when you do patrols or any infantry-related tasks.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
Exhibit A: What’s wrong with this picture? (Image via United States Grunt Corps)

Also Read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

The statement, “every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman,” is an insult to the job of an infantry rifleman. The notion that POGs take away from this statement, that they’re equal just because they know how to shoot a rifle, is absolutely not true.

The new Battle Skills Test is a solid step in the right direction, but POGs need to realize that their job is not more or less important and stop trying to feel better about not being grunts. After all, we’re all on the same team.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army recruits from southern states ‘are significantly less fit’

Army recruits from 10 Southern states are the most unfit and prone to injury in training compared to other regions of the country, according to a new study.


The study finds that recruits from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas “are significantly less fit, and consequently are more likely to encounter training-related injuries [TRI] than recruits from other U.S. states.”

Although the South is the top recruiting region, the study, based on U.S. Army data, shows that “male and female soldiers coming from these states are 22 to 28 percent more likely to be injured” in training.

The study was released by the Citadel, the military school in Charleston, South Carolina, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the American Heart Association.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
Soldiers assigned to Schofield barracks are doing THIS for PT.  (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

“Our results suggest that the [Southern] states identified here pose a greater threat to military readiness than do other states,” the study says.

“Each recruit lost to injury has been estimated to cost the Department of Defense approximately $31,000,” says the study, published Jan. 10 by the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

A Citadel release said the study is the result of a four-year effort led by Citadel Health, Exercise, and Sports Science professor Daniel Bornstein, Ph.D.

Other participants in the study include Laurie Whitsel, Ph.D., of the American Heart Association and Keith Hauret and Bruce Jones, M.D., of the U.S. Army Public Health Center. Participants from the University of South Carolina include George Grieve, Morgan Clennin, Alexander McLain, Ph.D., Michael Beets, Ph.D., and Mark Sarzynski, Ph.D.

Read Now: Army goes dark with new PT uniform

“It is our hope that the states identified through this analysis, along with federal entities, work to establish policies and environments proven to support physically active lifestyles,” Bornstein said in a statement.

“If such actions were taken, physical fitness levels among residents of these states would rise and each state’s disproportionate burden on military readiness and public health could be minimized,” he said.

The report says, “Many states in the southern region of the United States are recognized for higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity, and chronic disease. These states are therefore recognized for their disproportionate public health burden.”

In addition, the 10 Southern states “are also disproportionately burdensome for military readiness and national security,” the report states.

The study notes the presence of “high physical inactivity and obesity prevalence” in the South, and says “physical inactivity and obesity are well recognized among the most critical public health challenges of the 21st century.”

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
US soldiers lift a heavy log over their heads 20 times while competing in the Ivy Heptathlon during Iron Horse Week, January 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of the US Army

The study warns that the overall recruiting pool for the military is dwindling and cites estimates that 27 percent of Americans aged 17-24 are too overweight to qualify for military service, “with obesity being the second-highest disqualifying medical condition between 2010 and 2014.”

In comments to the Citadel on the study, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said the findings provide “critical insight into the real national security issues posed by recruits who are less physically fit and less prepared for military service than they have ever been in our history.”

“I know firsthand the challenges faced in addressing the fitness levels of our youth after having served as commander of all U.S. Army basic training units,” said Hertling, now a CNN analyst.

“While commanding in combat, I saw the effect training-related injuries had on mission accomplishment,” and “in basic training, the number of unfit recruits forced changes to our physical training procedures and dining menus,” he said.

Articles

“Band of Brothers” veteran Ed Tipper dies

Ed Tipper, a member of the famous D-Day-era “Easy Company,” died at his home in Lakewood, Colorado, Feb. 1.


He was 95.

According to a report by the Denver Post, the former paratrooper with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, spent over 30 years as a teacher before retiring in 1979. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other decorations, for his service in World War II.

The Daily Caller noted that Tipper suffered severe wounds during the Battle of Carentan, including the loss of his right eye, when a German mortar shell hit while he was clearing a house. The opening credits of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” shows Tipper, played by Bart Raspoli, being comforted by Joe Liebgott, played by Ross McCall, in the aftermath of that hit.

“So much of what people talk about with him is what he did in the war. That was two years and really six days starting on D-Day,” his daughter, Kerry Tipper, told the newspaper. “Teaching was 30 years.”

Most notable, though, is that despite the wounds, which included two broken legs, Tipper managed to carry on a very active life.

“He just refused to accept people’s limitations,” his daughter Kerry told the Denver Post. The newspaper reported that Tipper took a list of things doctors said he couldn’t do and made it a checklist. He was known to be an avid skier well into his 80s.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

His daughter also added that Tipper, like many in Easy Company, felt, “a little embarrassed that their group got attention, that theirs was spotlighted when there were so many other groups that did incredible things and made sacrifices.”

According to the Denver Post, Tipper is survived by a wife who he married in 1982, a daughter and a son-in-law. A public memorial service is scheduled for June 1.

Below, see the Battle of Carentan as portrayed in “Band of Brothers.” Ed Tipper is wounded at around 7:14 into the video:

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