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 HISTORY

This is how Robert E. Lee’s house became Arlington National Cemetery

Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee’s mansion was part of a Virginia estate on the Potomac River, across from the nation’s capital. It was land his wife inherited from her father. At 1,100 acres, it was an idyllic area to raise George Washington’s adopted great-grandchildren (his father-in-law, was George Washington Park Custis, the adopted son of the first Commander-in-Chief and our nation’s first First Lady).


They must have been really upset when the Union Army came by in May of 1861 and seized it from them.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
Taking photos at the enemy commander’s house was all the rage. Probably.

Also Read: The Civil War started and ended at the same guy’s house 

The previous month, South Carolinian contingents of the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The Civil War had begun. President Lincoln called up the U.S. Army, who came to the capital and took control of the Arlington side of the Potomac. The area was a prime position for Union Artillery.

In April 1861, Lee was appointed commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces. Though the state had not yet seceded, it was widely expected to do so. When Virginia left the Union, Lee was appointed to a Brigadier General’s rank in the Confederate Army in May 1861. That’s when the U.S. government took his land and home. Lee was with his army in nearby Manassas when the U.S. Army came knocking on May 24th.

Though the war started well for Lee and Virginia, it didn’t end well. After his defeat at Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia would never recover and Lee would be forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865. In the meantime, the land was used by Lee’s (and other) former slaves to grow food to feed the Union Army.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
General Irvin McDowell and staff, Arlington House 1862. I told you it was all the rage.

Related: Robert E. Lee may have lost Gettysburg because of a heart attack 

After the war, the Lee family decided to try to get their land and home back through a series of legal battles. The main sticking point? Lee’s unpaid tax bill. The U.S. government charged the Lees $92.07 in taxes on their land ($2130.52 in today’s dollars). Mary, Lee’s wife sent her cousin to pay the bill, but the U.S. would only accept the payment from Lee herself. When she didn’t show, they put the property up for sale.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
Then they hoisted a giant American flag on it, just for funsies.

Now that the land was delinquent on its taxes the government could purchase it, which it did. For $26,800, the equivalent of just over $620,156 today. Except in 2017, 1100 acres of Arlington, Va. is worth millions. But in 2017, that specific 1100 acres is actually priceless, because it’s now called Arlington National Cemetery. It’s where the United States inters its honored war heroes.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
The first graves in Arlington National Cemetery were dug by James Parks, a former slave. Parks was freed in 1862 but still lived on Arlington Estate for the duration of the war.

The U.S. long ago turned it into a cemetery for those troops lost in the Civil War. Union troops were buried there beginning in 1864, partly to relieve the overflowing Union hospitals and partly to keep the Lee family from ever returning. As late as 1870, the year Gen. Lee died, Mary Lee petitioned Congress to get her home back and remove the dead. The petition failed and Mary Lee died in 1873.

Her son, however, sued the government, claiming its 1864 tax auction was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered the government to either remove the bodies from the cemetery or pay the Lee estate a fair market price for the land. The government paid $150,000 for the now-priceless land.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 advantages “military brats” have in life

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Childhood is complicated in its own right. You’re starting to glimpse the way the world works but it doesn’t really make sense. You try on different personalities to find the right fit like jeans at the department store. You’re pretty sure if you sit too close to the TV, you won’t go cross-eyed, despite what the adults say. There’s a winged fairy that slips in your room in the middle of the night to discreetly buy old teeth that have fallen out of your mouth.


Now let’s throw into the chaos a parent who is often absent because of their job, to uphold the values and safety of the nation. This parent or parents have been the reason your life’s uprooted every two to three years, and you’ve had to roll with it. It’s never been up to you, but somehow you’ve found pride in the path you are on.

Few know what it takes to be a “military brat,” and there are times it can feel more like a burden than a privilege. These children are collectors of experiences, good and bad, and richer for it. Military brats have a level or vocabulary and self-awareness beyond their age. How can I describe these kids who sacrifice precious time with their active duty parent, while enduring move after move? Resilient. Astute. Optimistic.

It’s no surprise that some of the most famous and successful people in our society are military brats… Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and even… SHAQ?

From an outsider perspective, it may seem as though the life of the military brat is full of contradictions. I hate moving but I love having lived in different countries. I am proud of my parent but I’m frustrated when they work so much. Learning how to say goodbye gets easier, but not really. Yet despite all these challenges, there are certain advantages military children can take with them for life, long after their parents have separated from military service.

So, to shed a little light on the oft-misunderstood life of the so-called “military brat,” I did some interviewing of my own. Here are the advantages brats say they’ve gained that help them even after their parents have become veterans:

Language Skills

Being bilingual is not exclusive to military kids, but when I polled my friends’ children, the love of learning and speaking different languages was so strong that it deserves a place. They met new friends in other countries when kids at their new school would come over and ask about their English. They found excitement and acceptance in the phrase, “¡Hola! ¿Como te llamas?” As the kids got older, they had a harder time retaining a language not taught in American curriculum, like Italian, but they said when they visited the country, it came right back to them.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Flexibility 

Moving is tough. It’s a constant hustle of unpacking and repacking. It means making new friends and then saying goodbye. It also means playing baseball with the Alps as your outfield, and being personally invited to a gaucho’s (Argentinian cowboy) ranch to pet their goats and eat homemade empanadas. They understand the chance to travel comes with moving often, but there is a trace of exhaustion to hear them talk about it.

When I asked two sisters what their favorite thing is about being a military kid, one said, “Moving all over the world.” When I asked what their least favorite thing was, the other said, “Moving all the time.” It’s complicated.

Possessions are easy come, easy go. After all, the smaller amount of “stuff” you have, the less you have to pack up and move. One girl even said she likes to leave some things behind for her friends to remember her. Yet despite all the moves, you learn to be flexible. Life’s an adventure.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

World Perspective

The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.” – St. Augustine

It’s a big sentiment, and these kids get it. Every single one said they get to see cool things no one else gets to see, or that they’ve probably been to more countries than most adults. While the moving is exhausting, the flip side is that it has afforded them some beautiful sights that sets them apart from non-military kids. Traveling gives you a whole other perspective on the world and this is a skill that brats can take with them in any profession.

Tech-Savvy

It’s easy to vilify the effects of social media, but we forget that for those who move around a lot it is a means to keep in touch. The sisters who lived in Argentina practice their Spanish by talking to their old friends on the phone. Through email and messaging on Instagram, this generation of military brats is able to continue friendships and gain perspectives of old acquaintances across the globe using the latest technology…even Snapchat. Impressive.

People Skills 

Like playing the piano, if you practice social skills you will get better at it. One teen said because he’s met so many people, social skills come easy to him now, and that includes speaking in public. He learned from his dad how to greet people, and attributes it with enthusiasm to being a military kid. Oh, and he was just given the Principal’s Award out of his entire class this year, by the way.

It can make a kid nervous at first — that’s understandable, but the overwhelming consensus is: “worth it.”

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Department of Defense

Discipline

While this may not be the most fun advantage for military kids growing up there is definitely a sense of discipline that is learned from an early age. Whether it’s keeping your room “inspection ready” or just learning so say “sir or ma’am,” the values military children learn often translate into success in college, careers and even in their own families.

Sense of Service 

No, not all brats are going to follow their parents footsteps and join the military. While some do, most military children choose their own path in life but they never truly give up the sense of service. This can often translate into roles in their community or in some cases even elected offices. It’s this commitment to others that truly distinguishes brats from their peers.

Thanks!

A special thanks to the kids who let me pry into the wonders and difficulties of their unique lives. Garrison, Lily, Veronica, and to the countless other “military brats,” we all say thank you!

Now, please excuse me while I cry and watch videos on Youtube of parents coming home early from deployments to surprise their kids.

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC). If you are in the Los Angeles area, you can request a free Lyft ride to take advantage of their benefits for veteran families.

MIGHTY TRENDING

You will laugh at this Marine vet comic (and that’s an order)

Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.


All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this video, headliner and USMC vet Greg Hahn reads the crowd into his grand life plan and remembers how he was right out of boot camp.
MIGHTY TRENDING

This Blue Angels cockpit video is terrifying and amazing

This cockpit video footage of Blue Angel 4 in the “slot” position shows F/A-18 Hornets flying INCHES from each other — even as they do advanced aerial acrobatics.

Oh, and it’s a 360 degree video, so you can get the full picture of what these maneuvers are like (minus the 8’s pulled during the demonstration).


The U.S. Navy Blue Angels showcase the pride and badassery of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Each year, they perform more than 50 flight demonstrations at more than 25 air show sites.

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I was lucky enough to fly a JET-O (Jet Orientation) flight as a cadet in a T-37, and while my pilot was generous enough to take me on some thrilling barrel rolls (I did *not* throw up, thank you very much), that sortie was nothing compared to this aerial demonstration.

Anyone with VR sets can take this video to awesome heights, but even without, it’s pretty breathtaking.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
Look at that precision. I’ve seen troops that can’t even walk in formation, let alone fly a supersonic jet three feet away from another supersonic jet.
(Photo by Dirk HansenFlickr)

Also read: This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country — and the US

Blue Angels fly fighter aircraft that are maintained to near combat-ready status — except for the paint scheme and the removal of weapons. More specific modifications include the use of a specific smoke-oil for demonstrations and a more precise control stick.

“Precise” is the operative word here. Check out the video below to see for yourself — butt clenching begins around 2:10. You can drag your mouse or move your phone to look around.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ trailer TOTALLY redeems the franchise

Writers Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman have made a very, very smart decision.

By the looks of things, they’re giving the belovéd Ghostbusters universe a complete makeover by honing in on supernatural mystery while still maintaining the comedic levity of the original film. After the underwhelming 2016 reboot (ahhhh there was so much potential there and yet…so much disappointment), it looks like Juno’s Reitman (who will also direct) just might strike the perfect chord for this franchise.

Hop in your Ectomobile (because the kids in this film sure do) and let’s go for a ride:


GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE – Official Trailer (HD)

www.youtube.com

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE – Official Trailer (HD)

Opening on a sleepy rural town plagued by unexplainable earthquakes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a true sequel to the original films, including references to the supernatural activity of the 80s.

Single mother Carrie Coon (who is fantastic in everything she does — did you see Gone Girl? Why isn’t everyone talking about her at every moment?) and her kids (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and The Haunting of Hill House’s Mckenna Grace, who is also a killer talent) inherit a family farmhouse that’s definitely definitely haunted.

With the help of Paul Rudd, they learn that they are descended from an OG Ghostbuster, which explains the ghost traps and Ectomobile on the property.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

I’d watch him do anything. Honestly, anything. He’s perfect.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Sony Pictures

The trailer hints at a great Stranger Things-like vibe, which is very sexy right now, mixed with just the right amount of nostalgia and humor. And if that’s not enough to tingle your Twinkie then I’ll remind you that the film is rumored to include cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife will open in theaters July 2020.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan
MIGHTY CULTURE

This newly discovered planet gives Tatooine a run for its money

Planet: LTT 1445 A b

The discovery: This overheated planet, about 1.4 times as big around as Earth, has a sky that one-ups Star Wars’ Tatooine – three stars instead of two. It is one of 12 recent discoveries just added to NASA’s Exoplanet Archive, and was found by a Harvard Center for Astrophysics team using data from the TESS space telescope.

Date: July 26, 2019


Key facts: Likely a rocky planet, LTT 1445 A b takes only five days to go once around its star – a “year” on this world, which is about 22 light-years away from Earth. Its scorchingly close orbit helps explain why its surface basks in temperatures on the order of 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius) – comparable to a preheated oven.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A newly discovered exoplanet, LTT 1445 A b, orbits its parent star tightly; that star, in turn, orbits two others, making a three-star system. The arrangement is not unlike that of our nearest exoplanet neighbor, Proxima b, also with three stars in its sky, as shown in this artist’s rendering.

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Details: While the planet itself remains in what is probably a stable orbit around its star, that star also orbits, at greater distance, two sibling stars that are locked in close orbit around each other. This isn’t the first three-star system to be found with at least one planet. Our nearest stellar neighbor, in fact, is Proxima Centauri, orbiting the more distant pair, Alpha Centauri A and B. Proxima is only 4.25 light-years away from Earth. In orbit around it is Proxima b, a small, probably rocky world that takes an estimated 11 days to circle its star.

Fun facts: All three stars in the LTT 1445 system are red dwarfs, cooler and far longer-burning than larger yellow stars like our Sun. The planet also is the second-closest discovered so far that “transits” its star – that is, the orbit of LTT 1445 A b is tilted at the correct angle to, from our vantage point, pass across the face of its star. The “transit” observing method allows space telescopes like TESS to detect planets orbiting other stars by the shadows they cast – the tiny dip in starlight as the planet makes its crossing.

The very nearest transiting planetary system so far discovered is HD 219134 bc, about 21 light-years away.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

popular

How fans of ‘Jack Reacher’ were right about Tom Cruise

If there’s one criticism fans of the Jack Reacher book series had with its movie adaptation and its sequel, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, it was the star of the series. In the novels, author Lee Child’s former Army MP protagonist would tower over his opposition — but the movies’ producers cast Tom Cruise to portray the character. The less-imposing Cruise just didn’t measure up to the part.


“Cruise, for all his talent, didn’t have that physicality,” writer Lee Child said.

By physicality, Child means the actor was too short to fit the role. 

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Creative cinematography helped a lot.

Reacher readers got short with the creator of the hero when Crusie was announced as the actor for the film adaptation of the series. Child’s Jack Reacher series is wildly successful, selling more than 100 million copies of his books and short stories worldwide. The two movies were considered successful in their own right, but never met the high acclaim of the novels.

In Child’s book series, the character of Jack Reacher is a towering 6’5″. Cruise is just 5’7″.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Because Jack can’t be sitting in every shot.

“I’ve got tens of thousands of letters saying they didn’t like Cruise because he’s too small, basically,” Child told The Guardian. “Part of Reacher’s appeal is that he’s very intimidating. Even without doing anything, if he walks into a room, people are a little bit uneasy. It was felt that, for all his virtues, Cruise didn’t represent that. So the readers were cross from the beginning.”

Child, who worked in television before his writing career took off, likes that a television series can be produced without the need of an A-list actor of Tom Cruise’s stature.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

He’s not short if he’s always closer to the camera, right? Right.

As long as authors still have say in the screen adaptation of their work, it’s nice to know the opinions of true fans can loom so large over any final creative decisions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise is massive

The Rim of the Pacific Exercise, better known as RIMPAC, is the largest regular naval exercise in the world. Every even-numbered year, countries from around the globe take part in this massive operation. 15 nations took part in RIMPAC 2018 (China was disinvited), bringing together a total of 48 ships off the coast of Hawaii.

But there’s much more to RIMPAC than ships.


All sorts of units take part in this massive, international exercise. Off the coast of Southern California, participants carried out mine counter-measures exercises. Dolphins from the Navy Marine Mammal Program also pitched in to help with mine-clearing. Meanwhile, Camp Pendleton got in on the RIMPAC action as United States Marines trained with their Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

If that’s not enough, the United States Army and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force teamed up to put some hurt on a ship. Special Operations forces also got to do their thing during this exercise — hell, even the bands got involved!

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A Mk 7 bottlenose dolphin prepares to mark a “mine” during RIMPAC 2018.

(US Navy)

Historically, there’s been no limit as to what missions might be practiced. Ships get sunk during RIMPAC (arguably a highlight of the exercise), but units there also practice humanitarian missions, amphibious assaults, and even submarine rescues.

In 2018, the exercise was interrupted by a real search-and-rescue mission off the island of Hawaiian island of Niihau that involved Navy and Coast Guard units. In short, if it can happen in war, it can happen at RIMPAC!

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Multi-national Special Operations Forces (SOF) participate in a submarine insertion exercise with the fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and combat rubber raiding craft off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Michelle Pelissero)

This year, two aircraft carriers, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and JS Ise (DDH 182), took part, as did the amphibious assault ship USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD 6), HMAS Adelaide (L01), and 44 other vessels, ranging from the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T AH 19) to the Peruvian maritime patrol boat BAP Ferre.

Watch the video below to get a glimpse at all the ships that took part in RIMPAC 2018!

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 great Army-Navy mascot heists

There’s one Army-Navy Game tradition that might seem a bit surprising for institutions that preach honor, loyalty and dignity: the mascot heist. Somehow, over the decades, the ritual of stealing your opponent’s mascot has become a beloved prank that’s part of the rivalry’s tradition.

Army cadets seem to be more focused on stealing their generation’s version of Bill the Goat than Navy midshipmen are committed to mule theft. Of course, goats are much more compact creatures, something that makes them easier to transport and leaves far less of a mess to clean afterward.


To be fair, mascot pranks have a long history at our country’s elite colleges, though they didn’t surface at the service academies until after World War II because rank has its privileges. Even so, the academies signed a nonaggression pact in 1992 that supposedly put a stop to these shenanigans.

Here are 4 classic Army-Navy mascot heists

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

In 1953, Army cadets somehow thought they could corral a goat in a cardboard box.

(United States Military Academy Library)

1. 1953 — the tradition begins

West Point cadets used chloroform to gas Billy the Goat and spirit him away from Annapolis in the back of a convertible. After Bill’s return, Superintendent of the Naval Academy Vice Adm. C. Turner Joy told The New York Times that the goat had not, in fact, been “kid-naped” by the Army but had merely visited West Point as a guide for the “‘pathetic’ group of Army cadets who, like Yale’s ‘poor little sheep,’ had lost their way.”

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

2. 1965 — The Golden Fleece

West Point cadet Tom Carhart wrote an entire book called “The Golden Fleece: High-Risk Adventure at West Point” about the successful mission that he and five of his classmates pulled off in 1965. Sick of losing their goat, the Navy started keeping Bill on a naval base between appearances, a location with far greater security than the relatively open campus in Annapolis.

Dressed in black, the commandos cut through wire fences and completed their goat theft while their girlfriends distracted the Marine Corps guards with a story about being lost after getting stood up on a blind date.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

These modern-day mules are not the same ones stolen in 1991. But they may be related.

(U.S. Army)

3. 1991 — crimes committed in pursuit of a higher good

Navy midshipmen on a mission to steal West Point’s mules cut phone lines, tied up members of Army staff and went on the run from police. Facing felony charges, they instead got off with the “Order of the Mule,” a made-up award from the Navy commandant that declared their actions “in the highest traditions of the naval service.” Two of the raiders rose to become top leaders in the Navy SEALs.

Lead From The Front: An Army/Navy Short Film 2017 [4K]

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4. 2018 — Lead From the Front

West Point commandant Brig. Gen. Steven Gilland got in on the action last year as the star of a 10-minute Army spirit video that celebrated the tradition and plays out like a Hollywood Heist movie. Gilland plays the role of airborne commando in an elaborate raid on Annapolis.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Pentagon’s biggest enemy isn’t China or Russia

Our military is faced with a conflicting dichotomy. On one hand, we tout that we are the most technologically advanced military force on the planet. On the other, the Pentagon states that we need to upgrade our defenses to keep up with the looming threats. Depending on which briefing you attend, you may hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) is operating under a very tight budget; meanwhile, the news media points out the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.

So what gives? What is really happening?


To fully grasp the intricacies of the U.S. military’s budget and expenditures, we must take a holistic look at the budgetary process.

Who’s Really in Charge of the Military?

Each year, the service components draft their needs and submit them in a prioritized list to the Secretary of Defense. These lists are consolidated and given over to the president. The president, not being a military man, relies on the suggestions and vision of the service chiefs. In January of every year, the president submits his budget proposal (for the next year) to Congress.

The House and Senate each have their own Armed Services Committee, who eventually reconcile the two agendas; they determine what the military is authorized (how much they’re allowed to have) and what the military is appropriated (what they’re allowed to purchase that year). Once reconciled, Congress votes on the National Defense Authorization Act late in the calendar year. The NDAA then becomes law; the military must purchase those designated items.

This begs the question: who determines what the U.S. military will be comprised of? Sadly, it appears that the commander-in-chief merely makes recommendations; it is the Congress who has the final say.

Unfortunately, two flaws can be spotted in this system. First, it may be possible that a member of Congress may skew military appropriations in order to curry favor with their constituents. For example, Senator Susan Collins from Maine successfully petitioned to build the third Zumwalt-class destroyer to keep her state’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in business; at the time, it was a ship the Navy did not want. Second, once the appropriations are issued, it becomes a monumental fight to change them. What if a service realized that they need to change what they are purchasing because of a new threat? It would face the huge task of convincing Congress of the need to change the purchasing strategy mid-stream. It may prove more difficult than the effort itself.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

DoD

The Push for Technology

There’s a consensus among military analysts that posits the technological advantages of our adversaries. They assert that Russia and China have already surpassed the United States in terms of technological abilities. In these analyses, they credit foreign missiles with absolute reliability and perfect accuracy while discrediting our own.

This trend has spurned the admirals and generals into action; there is a palpable emphasis in developing futuristic weapons to not only meet the challenge, but to far exceed it. At this point, I will concede that there is value in developing weaponry for the future. However, I will dispute the overwhelming emphasis currently placed upon it. If one is focused on a futuristic battle, you may not be prepared for the near-term skirmish.

The DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2021 stands at 8 billion in total. Of that, 4.3 billion is being spent on Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation (RDTE); this is the highest value in our country’s history. This money will be spent on the development of weapons that do not yet exist. Items such as laser rayguns, howitzers with global reach, and deflector shields sound good in theory, but the technology isn’t mature enough to make them a reality.

Each service component has a number of pet-projects that are purely hypothetical at this point: the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber concept boasts unmatched abilities, when it hasn’t even flown yet; the Navy’s electromagnetically driven catapults and elevators still haven’t proven their worth; the Army’s search for a robot that can autonomously carry an infantryman’s load hasn’t reached fruition; and all of the services are constructing massive databases to help each keep track of maintenance and availability at extreme cost.

I do not believe these programs should be canceled, but they should not be the national priority. These programs should be relegated to the “back burner” until technology can catch up to the promised capabilities.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

DoD

The Value of Our Current Force

Right now, the U.S. military is, by far, the strongest force on the planet. Let’s review recent history.

In 1991, the U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi army in 96 hours. Later, in 2003, the US military crushed the Iraqi army in less than weeks, while using only two divisions as the spearhead. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military forced the Taliban government to fall within three months. Since that time, the United States has held control of Afghanistan longer than the Russians or Alexander the Great ever did.

Think about that.

Those are astounding time frames. But like any sports team, all the competitors would like to defeat the champion and claim the title. So, the United States must be vigilant to keep the hyenas at a distance. Because of that, I propose that Washington maintain its current force as its primary effort, while slowly developing its future capability as a secondary effort.

For a moment, let’s set aside the on-going technological revolution. The major weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal are sound, combat-proven, and worthy of keeping. Sure, they will require upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, but they are largely superior to most nations’ weapons. Our weapons systems cannot be allowed to fester or grow obsolete while we chase new futuristic weapons that are years from production. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

The reality is that new weapons are prohibitively expensive and take too much time to build; because of the costly price tags of the new weapons, the Pentagon invariably ends up buying fewer new weapons and ends up lagging behind our adversaries in terms of the sheer total number of systems; during these extensive construction times, we must maintain our current force structure by funding the “in-place” weapons systems.

Conspiracy Theory

Political doves often create conspiracy-laden theories that accuse the most outlandish plots. One of them touts that the average citizen does not truly comprehend how much the weapons manufacturing industries fuel the U.S. economy overall. True, the military-industrial complex affects many jobs in many states, but the funding of programs just to create “jobs” eventually hurts the military. It is sometimes necessary to cancel a project and shift its money to another more worthwhile project. This may hurt some Congress-members, and it may mean shifting funding to another defense company, but in the end, the United States will benefit from the security gained from a good piece of military hardware.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

DoD

The Way Forward

To unravel the convoluted budgetary process and streamline defense acquisition, the president should request a special meeting with both Congressional Armed Services Committees to appeal for one-time special monetary powers to shift defense spending toward ‘at risk’ military capabilities. Funds would have to be shifted on an emergency basis, with the aim of purchasing the best items now rather than perfect items far in the future. The president should propose:

1) The RDTE value should be reduced by 10 percent for one year. Research could still continue with the remaining .9 billion, although some delays could be expected. The .4 billion could be used elsewhere.

2a) Purchase another eight F-15EX fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.2 billion, as the Air Force did last year. This would serve to augment the F-15 fleet during the slow expansion of the F-35 acquisition.

2b) Along a similar vein, initiate the purchase of sixteen F-16V Block 72 fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.3 billion. Just the addition of the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will be a great improvement of the Viper’s potential, given that the F-16 will still be flying beyond 2030.

3) Purchase another Virginia-class Block V submarine with the additional Virginia Payload Module for .75 billion. This would help in the Navy in two ways: the VPM capability will assist with the aging SSGN line of ships, which will retire soon; it will bring up the submarine production schedule, which had slowed over the last two years. This will alleviate concern of the shrinking attack submarine numbers. Further, insist that all future acquisition of Virginia-class attack submarines be equipped with the VPM missiles to ameliorate the retirement of SSGNs.

4) Disburse id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to change the structure/composition of the Littoral Combat Ship. To date, twenty LCS ships have been laid down. These ships are misfits within the Navy, not truly fulfilling any particular mission. The president should insist that the remaining ships in the class (fifteen hulls) be re-configured as mini-arsenal ships. Using the current hull design, the super-structure would have permanently installed VLS systems to house the Naval Strike Missile, the Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile, the Standard Missile 2 missiles or the Standard Missile 6; all of these guided by the SPY-1F Aegis radar; however, this would most likely eliminate the helicopter landing pad in the stern of the ship. In short, the last fifteen LCS ships would be turned into offensive weapons systems and serve as an interim frigate until a new ship design is introduced.

5) Implement a significant change to an Army major acquisition program. Currently, three Services use a variant of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Army, however, insists on building its tilt-rotor from scratch. This is costly and time-consuming. The commander-in-chief should bring the Army into the DoD fold by demanding the purchase of the latest CV-22 version to replace the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. This would save billions in developmental research. As an incentive, the commander-in-chief would offer id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to this effort. The Army would benefit from the improvements made by the other Services, while taking advantage of an active production line.

6) Purchase another Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, specifically designed to fulfill the air defense role, for billion. The Arleigh Burke is the workhorse for the Navy, and should continue for the foreseeable future. The Flight III design serves as the stopgap until the Navy can fill the role that aging cruisers are struggling with.

7) Lastly, the Army must complete upgrading its ground combat vehicles. Usually, this is a multi-year project. But in the light of increased adversaries, it should be completed sooner. 0 million is needed for sixty upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles with heavier weapon systems; 0 million would convert 168 Bradley vehicles to the new M-2A4 configuration; 0 million would purchase twenty-nine new M-1A2C Abrams tanks (about a battalion’s worth); all part of on-going programs.

Conclusion

The transfer of developmental funding to active, “ready” programs would require Congressional buy-in. But time can also be an enemy; thus, to keep our strategic advantage, it is worth the venture to shift our defense dollars to more meaningful projects. By shifting billion dollars, the president could ease the burden upon the Navy to restore its ship-building schedule; it would help the Air Force keep its fourth-generation fighters ahead of contemporaries; and bring the Army forward in its long-term upgrading process. This shift may slow the development of futuristic weapons, or it may invigorate the program managers to operate more judiciously.

A shift of billion dollars is a small number to Congress. But it is a valuable number in terms of maintaining our decisive edge over our enemies.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants big upgrades for ‘enemy’ units worldwide

While the United States fought conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa over the last seventeen years, potential adversaries were studying U.S. operations and developing sophisticated weapons, munitions, and disruptive technologies. U.S. forces must anticipate that adversaries will employ these increasingly advanced systems, some approaching or even surpassing U.S. capabilities, while also proliferating them to their allies and proxies around the globe.

Both Russia and China, our two most sophisticated strategic competitors, are developing new approaches to conflict by modernizing their concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems to challenge U.S. forces and our allies across all operational domains (land, sea, space, cyberspace, and space). Russia’s New Generation Warfare and China’s Local Wars under Informationized Conditions are two examples of these new approaches.


In the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, non-state actors and radical militant groups are gaining military capabilities previously associated only with nation-states. Irregular forces are growing more capable as they adopt new weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has used advanced anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems, and a sophisticated mission command system in its conflicts with Israel and participation in the Syrian civil war. Joining Hezbollah in the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles are Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS has also used chemical weapons. In addition, Iran adopted a very sophisticated warfare doctrine aimed at the U.S., and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen aims rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Army exists to fight our nation’s wars and it rigorously prepares to reach the highest possible level of sustained readiness to defeat such a wide array of threats and capabilities. To attain this end state, training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers, or CTCs, must be realistic, relevant, and pit training units against a dynamic and uncompromising Opposing Force, or OPFOR.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuver through the streets of a compound at the National Training Center, Calif., during an OPFOR training exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)

The CTC program employs several professional OPFOR units, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the 1-509th Airborne Infantry Battalion within the swamps of Louisiana at the Joint Readiness Training Center, 1-4th Infantry Battalion at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and the World Class OPFOR within the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Army’s Cyber Command also provides specialized support to these OPFOR units with cyber aggressors.

The OPFOR is representative of adversary forces and threat systems that reflect a composite of current and projected combat capabilities. The OPFOR must be capable of challenging training units’ mission essential tasks and key tasks within the Army Universal Task List. To maintain OPFOR’s relevance as a competitive sparring partner, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command devotes major analytic efforts to studying foreign armies and determining the optimum configuration for OPFOR units that both represent a plausible threat and challenge training tasks. This also requires the Army to consistently modernize the OPFOR with replicated peer or near-peer threat weapons and capabilities.

The OPFOR must be capable of challenging U.S. Army training units with contemporary armored vehicles that are equipped with stabilized weapon systems and advanced night optics, as well as realistic kill-or-be-killed signatures and effects via the Multiple Integrated Laser Effects Systems. The OPFOR must also have air attack platforms, advanced integrated air defense systems, unmanned aerial systems, modern-day anti-tank munitions, long-range and guided artillery fires, and improvised explosive devices.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment; 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, race their M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle toward the opposition force (OPFOR) during a battle simulation exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin.

(Photo by Maj. W. Chris Clyne, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Additionally, the OPFOR must be capable of subjecting training units to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear effects and technologically enhanced deception capabilities. The OPFOR must also be capable of degrading or denying training unit dependency on Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities with threat electronic warfare, cyberspace, and space effects.

Modernizing the U.S. Army’s OPFOR program is an unremitting endeavor, because threats continuously change and technology relentlessly revolutionizes the art of war. Replicating the most realistic threat capabilities and tactics is critical for training units and commanders to practice their tactics, techniques, and procedures, and learn from the consequences of their decisions under tactical conditions.

This topic, as well as the challenges the OPFOR enterprise faces in developing much-needed capabilities to effectively replicate threats in a dynamic Operational Environment that postulates a changing character of future warfare, will be highlighted during a Warriors Corner at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10, 2018, from 2:55-3:35 p.m.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things you may not have expected from serving

When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you’ll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don’t even spend all of their time fighting wars.

Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.

It’s not even that your recruiter lied to you, it’s just that much of life in the military isn’t as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they’re what keeps the machine running.

You probably didn’t expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:


Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

It’s hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)

Playing paintball

If you’re a prospective Marine, then you’ve probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn’t hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Hell, it’s probably some of the best training you can get.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Loading ammo onto an aircraft

We’ve all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we’re thinking, “whoa… that’s so cool.” That is, of course, before you’re the one loading the ammo.

Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

Some may use their anger more than others.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

Feeling emotional extremes of every type

Troops are tough bad*sses — but we’re definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they’ve already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You’ll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you’ll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you’ll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

You might even earn their accolades.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)

Hanging with another country’s troops

You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can’t really foresee the time you’ll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You’ll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.

And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

If you’ve got time and you’ll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?

(U.S. Army)

Building a terrain model

Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.

You also probably didn’t expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.

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