The Thai boys saved from a flooded cave endured dives in zero visibility lasting up to half an hour. In places, they were put into harnesses and high-lined across rocky caverns, said a leader of the U.S. contingent involved in the operation, calling it a “once in a lifetime rescue.”
Derek Anderson, a 32-year-old rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force based in Okinawa, Japan, said the dozen boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their coach, who were trapped for more than two weeks before being rescued, were “incredibly resilient.”
“What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive,” Anderson told The Associated Press in an interview on July 11, 2018.
The scale of the challenge confronting rescuers from Thailand, Britain, Australia and other countries only truly dawned on the U.S. team after it arrived at the cave in the early hours of June 28, 2018, as rain poured down on the region in northern Thailand. The Thai government had requested U.S. assistance.
“The cave was dry when we arrived, and within an hour and half it had already filled up by 2 to 3 feet and we were being pushed out,” said Anderson, the son of missionaries, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Ecuador.
“That was just in the very beginning of the cave and at that point we realized this problem is going to be much more complex than we thought,” he said.
Thailand’s decision to dive the boys out despite their weak condition and lack of diving experience was made when a window of opportunity was provided by relatively mild weather. A massive operation to pump water out also meant air pockets were created at crucial points of the cave, making a rescue possible.
Falling oxygen levels, risk of sickness and the imminent prospect of more rain flooding the cave complex for months meant “the long-term survivability of the boys in the cave was becoming a less and less feasible option,” Anderson said.
Divers practiced their rescue techniques in a swimming pool with local children about the same height and weight as the members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in the cave.
The aim, Anderson said, was to make each of the boys “tightly packaged” so divers could keep control of them and adjust their air supply as needed. The process lasted hours for each boy, and involved them getting through long passageways barely bigger than an adult body.
Buoyancy compensators that establish neutral buoyancy underwater, hooded wetsuits, bungee cords and special face masks were carried by divers to the cramped patch of dry elevated ground where the boys were huddled.
The positive pressure masks were “really crucial,” Anderson said. Their use meant that even if a boy panicked — perhaps because of getting snagged in a narrow passage — and got water inside his mask, the pressure would expel it.
The complicated operation to bring the boys out of the cave began on July 8, 2018, when four were extracted. Four more were brought out on July 9, 2018, and the operation ended July 10, 2018, with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.
The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world — from the awful news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later.
The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, 2018, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge.
Initial attempts to locate the boys were twice unsuccessful because the force of cold hypothermia-inducing floodwaters rushing into narrow passages made them unpassable. Even as conditions improved, and divers began laying life-saving rope guidelines through the cave, it was perilous.
“In this type of cave diving, you have to lay line, rope, that’s your lifeline. You have to ensure when you go in you have a way out,” Anderson said. “They were making progress, but it was very little progress and they were exhausting themselves spending maybe five or six hours and covering 40 or 50 meters (yards).”
There were about a hundred people inside the cave for each rescue operation, Anderson said, and each boy was handled by dozens of people as their perilous movement through a total of nine chambers unfolded.
In some phases they were guided by two divers. In some narrow passages they were connected to only one diver. In caverns with air pockets they were “floated” through with the support of four rescuers. Some sections were completely dry but treacherously rocky or deep.
“We had to set up rope systems and high-lines to be able to safely put them in a harness and bring them across large open areas so they wouldn’t have to go all the way down,” Anderson said.
Cylinders placed at locations throughout the cave for replenishing the boys’ air supply were “jammed” with 80 percent oxygen instead of regular air because “that would plus up their oxygen saturation levels and that would be really good for them, their mental state,” he said.
“The world just needs to know that what was accomplished was a once in a lifetime rescue that I think has never been done before,” Anderson said. “We were extremely fortunate that the outcome was the way it was. It’s important to realize how complex and how many pieces of this puzzle had to come together.”
“If you lose your cool in an environment like that, there is a lot of bad repercussions,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military is no picnic when it comes to consuming food. Eating quickly and at strange hours is a way of life in the armed forces. For many women veterans, these experiences can affect their eating habits, and relationship with food after their military service is over.
For a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers Dr. Jessica Breland of VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Dr. Shira Maguen of San Francisco VA Health Care System talked with 20 women veterans about how military service affected their eating habits. They found that many had developed unhealthy patterns such as binging, eating quickly, eating in response to stress and extreme dieting. In many cases, those habits carried over into civilian life.
Poor eating habits
The veterans described three military environments that promoted poor eating habits: boot camp, deployment, and on base.
Almost all of the women recalled that in boot camp, they were forced to eat quickly.
“My family asks why I eat so fast, and I say I learned it from the military,” one woman veteran said. “We were always timed.”
Finding healthy food choices in the military was not easy.
Others ate quickly in order to get second helpings. In addition to eating fast, they also ate a lot. Since they were physically active, they didn’t gain weight. But when they got out of boot camp and continued eating large meals, they gained weight, which then affected their self-esteem.
Deployment changed eating habits even further since there was no set schedule for meals.
“You ate as much as you could before the flies ate your food, or you had to run off and do something and get [to] … the next stressful situation” said one woman veteran.
On base, meals were less stressful than in boot camp or on deployment, but healthy choices were limited.
“Your options are the mess hall or Burger King and Cinnabon,” said another woman bveteran.
Security Forces Airmen with the 121st Air Refueling Wing participate in quarterly weapons training during a regularly scheduled drill at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, May 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn)
For many women, the need to “make weight” — not exceed maximum military weight limits — was an ongoing struggle. This involved continually monitoring what they ate and being monitored by others. For some, this struggle was tied directly to the stress of being female in the military.
“There is just a whole host of things that we have to deal with that [male service members] don’t have to,” one woman said, “and one of those things is being constantly judged on our appearance. It’s like there is nothing we can do right as women in the military and … that translates into these eating issues when we get home.”
Challenges making weight
Making weight was even more challenging — and critical — after pregnancy.
“They give you nine months to gain the weight [during pregnancy], and if you’re over[weight] when you come back to work in six weeks, it’s career death,” one participant said. “They start writing you up, they start demoting you, but the men don’t have that, you know?”
Some women ate as a way of finding comfort and control in stressful situations. One Navy veteran said she and a female colleague felt isolated and bullied due to their gender. They used food as a way to feel good and cope.
“When we got in port, we would just hole up in a hotel room, and just buy a whole bunch of just comfort food, candy, cookies, and whatever it was that we wanted to pig out and eat on. So we [were] in a relationship with the food, her and me, which … helped us out a lot.”
Some became trapped in a cycle of overeating and extreme dieting.
Army 2nd Lt. Caitlyn Simpson prepares her platoon for a training mission from inside a tank at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 28. 2019.
(Photo By: Army Cpl. Alisha Grezlik)
“You [could have] the start of a really serious eating disorder that could have killed you and it was reinforced by people saying, ‘Oh my god, look how much weight you are losing,’ like it was a good thing,” one female veteran said. “Were they going to wait until you were dead before they said, ‘You know, this might not be so healthy’?”
Adapting to civilian life
Some women found it hard to readjust to civilian eating patterns after leaving the service.
“[My family said], ‘We’re not in the military. You have to slow down and back away and think about what you are doing,'” another female veteran said. “So that was hard … it wasn’t clicking in my head that I was no longer in the military. They didn’t know my norm, and I didn’t know their norm, and we were just clashing all the time.”
Other women reported that they no longer took pleasure in food because years of consuming mediocre military meals had reduced eating to the level of a chore.
“You just eat it or you starve,” as one woman put it.
The researchers caution that their findings may not apply to all women in the military, but only to those with certain risk factors. They hope to do larger-scale research to further explore the issue.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
But these are not the first Americans to have been held hostage. A 2017 list from USA Today before Warmbier’s release noted some other incidents dating from 2009 to the present. These cases have involved civilians. However, prior to 1996, when Evan Hunziker swam across the Yalu River, there had been some incidents where American troops were held hostage.
The environmental research ship USS Pueblo (AGER 2) was attacked and captured by North Korean Forces. One American was killed in the initial attack, while 82 others were held for 11 months. The vessel is still in North Korean hands.
2. July 14, 1977
A CH-47 Chinook was shot down by North Korean forces, killing three of the crew. The surviving crewman was briefly held by the North Koreans until he was released, along with the bodies of the deceased.
I was made aware of the stunning video below by my son Lorenzo, who’s a big LEGO fan. The footage has just been posted by the “Beyond the Brick” Youtube channel and shows the crazy cool MCAS Marine Corps Air Station that Paul Thomas put on display at Bricks by the Bay 2019, an annual gathering of LEGO builders, enthusiasts and fans held in Santa Clara in mid-July.
The LEGO diorama was inspired by Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms but it’s (obviously) not a replica: it is a fictional representation of a U.S. Marine Corps base with aircraft and vehicles that you could find at an MCAS. Thomas created the 10 x 7.5 feet diorama in modules (since his garage could not accommodate it all) in about 6 months.
Another view of the Marine Corps Air Station by Paul Thomas.
(Screenshot from Beyond the Brick’s YT video)
Along with F-35B Lightning II jets, there are MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallion and AH-1Z Viper helicopters as well as a rotating radar, a security checkpoint at the gate of the base, hangars used for inspection and maintenance activities, various vehicles and much more.
Pretty impressive, isn’t it?
US Marines Air Base in LEGO | Bricks by the Bay 2019
The video first appeared in December 2017, and shows Saudi forces single-handedly destroying Iran’s military and nuclear program in an all-out invasion involving an amphibious assault and paratroopers.
While the video certainly exaggerates on a lot of details and the power of the Saudi military, its release says a few things about Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s attempts to make Saudi Arabia into a more important player in the region.
“The video is a basic first effort at creating nationalist military propaganda to counter similar (slicker) Iranian versions we have seen,” Michael Knights, a Lafer fellow at The Washington Institute who specializes in the security affairs of Iran, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf, told Business Insider in an email.
Knights pointed to this weekend’s missile attacks launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the rather embarrassing failures of Saudi missile defenses filmed by witnesses.
“Saudi Arabia needs reassurance that their country can strike back if this gets out of control,” he said. “That was the point of the video: to demonstrate retaliatory capabilities.”
While the video predates the March 2018 attacks by almost three months, the Saudi military’s inferiority when it comes to facing off against the Iran threat is well known.
The video, however, shows Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, surrendering to Saudi soldiers. Iranian civilians are also seen waving Saudi flags and holding pictures of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman while cheering for their Saudi liberators in Tehran.
Saudi Arabian outlets reported that the video was “produced by young people from Saudi Arabia,” and an official from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington said that the crown prince was not involved in the video.
But the six-minute video shows an advanced knowledge of Iranian and Saudi weaponry and looks strikingly similar to what a state-sanctioned propaganda video would look like. It notably received instant promotion by Saudi media, which is mostly owned by the royal court.
It even opens with a quote from the crown prince: “To reach the Qibla of the Muslims is a main target for the Iranian regime. We will not wait until the fight is in Saudi Arabia, we will bring the fight to Iran,” and labeled the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf.”
There are actually elements in the video that are understated, according to Knights, like Saudi Arabia’s fixed-wing strike capacity.
“If Saudi Arabia chose to engage in punitive strikes it could, at the risk of Iranian retaliation, destroy any surface infrastructure along Iran’s coast, including all oil and gas export facilities, ports, power stations and industrial ventures, as well as many further inland,” he said.
Knights did point out though that the Saudi medium-range ballistic missiles featured in the video are “not useful for much except carrying weapons of mass destruction,” which although Saudi Arabia currently lacks, may be pursued.
As states continue to reduce restrictions on cannabis use, more and more military veterans are rejecting opioids and prescription pain medications while experiencing positive results from cannabis products. CBD products are being used over prescription drugs to help treat pain and symptoms of PTSD, as well as for anxiety or sports recovery.
Combat veterans, like world-record base jumper and skydiver Andy Stumpf and Omar “Crispy” Avila, are huge proponents of CBD, specifically the hemp-derived offering available from Kill Cliff, a veteran founded/run organization that makes clean sports beverages.
I had the chance to chat with both guys and find out a little more about their military background and why they turn to CBD, as well as which strands/methods they prefer to utilize.
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf set world records as a BASE jumper and skydiver.
Andy Stumpf enlisted in the U.S. Navy while he was still in high school, hell bent on becoming a Navy SEAL. While on a combat deployment, he was shot at close-range by an insurgent. Despite the severity of the injury, Stumpf continued his SEAL career by becoming a BUD/S instructor and the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After commissioning, he joined SEAL Team Three for his final combat tour in Afghanistan. He was medically retired after seventeen years of service and hundreds of combat operations throughout the world.
In 2015 he jumped from 36,000 feet and flew over 18 miles in a wingsuit in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“In the military, if you went to the medic with any symptoms, whether headache or bodyache, they used to give — and I’m not judging when I say this — a literal sandwich bag of 800mg Motrin, which certainly works for pain suppression but also liver liquidation and stomach upset. I could have asked for narcotics, but my body never responded well to it,” reflected Stumpf.
Now, he uses hemp-derived CBD for pain relief and the ability to sleep. He enjoys the Kill Cliff CBD drink after a two-hour training session to help “round the edges.” The 25mg CBD recovery drink gives him zero neurological suppression which is why he prefers it over something like a sublingual edible or a topical product.
“I’ve tried everything from topicals, salves, pills, and they all have a time and place. What I like about this product is that I can use it to maximize my recovery and health,” he shared.
Omar “Crispy” Avila on active duty before his life-threatening attack.
Omar “Crispy” Avila shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for what would be his first and last deployment. Near the end of his 11 months in country, his convoy was ambushed and his Humvee was struck by an IED that hit the fuel tank and exploded violently, propelling the vehicle into the air and killing one soldier instantly.
Avila climbed into the turret of his Humvee to provide cover fire for his team as flames engulfed the vehicle. He caught fire as grenades and ammunition succumbed to the heat, forcing him to jump from the roof of the burning vehicle. He broke both of his femurs and attempted to extinguish the flames.
He woke up three months later at a VA hospital in Texas. More than 75 percent of his body was covered in third and fourth degree burns and part of his right foot had been amputated.
“I weaned myself off a lot of medications and I find myself waking up every single day with a lot of pain. I’m not saying that this CBD drink is the cure for everything but at least for me, it brings the pain and anxiety down,” Avila stated.
Avila opened up about anxiety (“it creeps up on you like a mother f***er”) and said the Kill Cliff drinks help him at the end of the day or when anxiety builds but he still wants to feel productive.
Launched in June 2019, Kill Cliff CBD is the fastest growing CBD brand in the country. The bioavailability of a CBD beverage is superior to other forms of CBD. It is nano-encapsulated and easily dissolved in the stomach before going straight into the bloodstream. Kill Cliff offers three flavors: The G.O.A.T., Orange Kush and Mango Tango.
For what it’s worth, I had the chance to try out the (very delicious) Mango Tango and it launched me into a calm state of concentration. Their promise that it “won’t alter your routine” held up remarkably well.
Anyone curious about trying it out for themselves can find the CBD products and other Kill Cliff clean energy drinks online and take comfort in knowing that the company was founded and is run by former Navy SEALs as a sustainable way to give back to the special warfare community through the Navy SEAL Foundation. Since 2015, Kill Cliff has donated over one million to military charities.
The Army and Navy are operating together in the Pacific to fire Army artillery from Navy ships, send targeting data to land weapons from Navy sensors, and use coastal land rockets to destroy enemy ships at sea, service leaders said.
“The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Ongoing explorations of the now heavily emphasized Pentagon “cross-domain fires” strategy are currently taking on new applications through combined combat experiments in the Pacific theater. Ferrari explained that these experimental “teams” are combining air defense units, ground combat units, cyber units, and artillery units, and putting them together in operations.
“Part of what we do is integrate with the Navy. The Naval threat for the Pacific is one of the major threats, so the Army is doing multi-domain battle. The Pacific is inherently Joint. There is very little that we do that is not done with other services,” Ferrari said.
Much of the ongoing work involves integrating combat units which have historically operated in a more separated or “single-focused” fashion. Combing field artillery, a brigade headquarters, air defense, Navy assets, and ISR units into a single operation, for instance, represents the kind of experiments now underway.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Woody Paschall)
“Instead of having three battalions of artillery, you will have pieces of these things – then go out and use it,” Ferrari said.
Tactically speaking, firing precision artillery from surface ships could possibly introduce some interesting advantages. The Navy is now exploring weapons such as long-range precision-guided ammunition for its deck-mounted 5-inch guns, ship-fired offensive weapons such as the advanced Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Maritime Tomahawk, and an over-the-horizon weapon for the Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate.
Something like an Army Tactical Missile Systems rocket, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GPS-guided Excalibur 155m artillery does bring the possibility to supplement existing ship-fired Navy weapons systems. Tomahawk and LRASM, for instance, can fly lower and somewhat parallel to the surface to elude enemy defensive systems.
One senior US military official explained that bringing Army artillery to surface ships to compliment existing Navy weapons could bring new dimensions to the surface attack options available to commanders.
Artillery could also lend combat support to extensive layered defensive weapons on Navy ships such as SeaRAM, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and Rolling Airframe Missile, among others. These interceptors, it seems, could be strengthened by the potential use of land-fired weapons on Navy ships.
“Mixing all presents multiple dilemmas for the enemy,” a senior official told Warrior.
Much of this kind of experimentation will take the next step this coming summer at the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, a joint, multi-national combat and interoperability exploration.
Navy commanders have been “all in” on this as well, previously using F-18s to identify targets for land weapons in exercises in recent years such as Noble Eagle in Alaska, senior military officials have described.
Along these lines, US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris has consistently emphasized multi-domain operations in public speeches.
“I’d like to see the Army’s land forces sink a ship, shoot down a missile, and shoot down the aircraft that fired that missile – near simultaneously – in a complex environment where our joint, and combined forces are operating in each other’s domains,” Commander, US Pacific Command, said in 2017 at the Association of the United States Army LANPAC Symposium and Exposition.
During this same speech, Harris also said the Army will fire a Naval Strike Missile from land as part of the upcoming RIMPAC exercise.
Harris underscored the urgency of the US need for stronger multi-domain battle technology and tactics by telling the House Armed Services Committee early 2018 “China will surpass Russia as the world’s second largest Navy by 2020, when measured in terms of submarines and frigate-class ships.
As part of the cross-domain effort, the Army and Navy are looking at improving ways to connect their respective networks; Adm. Harris said “joint effects” in combat can be challenged by a lack of integration between different services’ “tactical ISR, target acquisition and fire control systems.”
For example the Navy’s integrated sensor network known as Cooperative Engagement Capability connects targeting and ISR nodes across the force. The emphasis now is to connect these kinds of systems with, for instance, Army weapons such as ground-fired Patriot missiles and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense weapons.
In addition, the Army’s Integrated Battle Command Systems is itself a comparable combat theater sensor network where various radar, command and control and weapons “nodes” are networked to expedite real-time data sharing. Part of the maturation of this system, according to Army and Northrop Grumman developers, is to further extend IBCS to cue Air Force, and Navy assets operating in a given theater of operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fidel C. Hart)
One senior Army weapons developer told Warrior – “it’s about target acquisition and ranges. Maybe target acquisition comes from a ship and I do surface fires on land. We need to experiment with sensors.”
The advent of long-range sensors and precision fires on the part of potential near-peer adversaries has reinforced the need for the US military to operate in real time across air, sea and land domains. Furthermore, the emergence of converging newer domains, such as cyber, space and the electromagnetic sphere are naturally an indispensable element of cross-domain fires.
In an Army paper titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Evolution of Combined Arms for the 21st Century 2025-2040,” former TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins writes:
“It (Multi-Domain Battle) expands the targeting landscape based on the extended ranges and lethality delivered at range by integrated air defenses, cross-domain fire support, and cyber/electronic warfare systems. We must solve the physics of this expanded battle space, and understand the capabilities that each domain can provide in terms of echelon, speed, and reach.”
Perkins and other senior Pentagon strategists have explained Multi-Domain Battle as a modern extension of the Cold War AirLand Battle Strategy which sought to integrate air and ground attacks to counter a Soviet attack in Europe.
“AirLand Battle started developing the concept of ‘extended battlefield.’ Multi-Domain battle endeavors to integrate capabilities in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another, creating and exploiting temporary windows of advantage,’ Perkins writes in Multi-Domain Battle: Joint Combined Arms Concept for the 21st Century.
Army – Air Force
The Army and the Air Force are also launching a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service cross-domain combat doctrine.
Operating within this concept, Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
“The F-35 is doing ISR and could possibly deliver a weapon on the same flight. We can then use what they can generate on the ground, fusing sensors, and target acquisition with things that can deliver effects,” a senior defense official told Warrior.
There has never been a United States Secretary of Defense that has been so universally beloved. Retired Gen. Jim Mattis was confirmed last year by a landslide vote of 98 in favor and 1 opposed, despite being on a waiver to circumvent the seven-years-since-retirement requirement to be appointed Secretary of Defense.
Long before he rose to the highest position in the Armed Forces, second only to the President, he earned several monikers, each from a different aspect of his ability to lead.
4. “Mad Dog” Mattis
For the record: He is not a fan of the name, “Mad Dog” Mattis. So, you probably don’t want to go saying it to a man that has admitted that the max effective range on his knife hand is hundreds of miles. It dates back to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article saying that U.S. troops in Fallujah called him “Mad Dog” behind his back and that it was “high praise” in Marine culture.
The “Mad Dog” label stuck following a series of intimidating quotes, such as, “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” and “a good soldier follows orders, but a true warrior wears his enemy’s skin like a poncho.” At Gen. Mattis’s confirmation hearing, former Maine Senator and the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, joked that it’s a misnomer and the nickname “Braveheart” would have been much more accurate.
3. “Warrior Monk”
The most accurate of his nicknames has to be “The Warrior Monk.” Another beautiful Mattisism is, “the most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
Gen. Mattis is well known for his intelligence, extensive book collection, and giving his troops required reading lists that range from cultural studies to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. For his complete reading list, broken down by rank and region of deployment, click here.
His preferred nickname is the call sign he used as a Colonel, “Chaos.” He joked at a conference that he’d like to tell people that it was for some dignified reason, but it’s not.
When he was a regimental commander at Twentynine Palms, he was leaving the S-3 office and noticed the words “CHAOS” written on the whiteboard. He asked someone what it meant and got, “Oh, you don’t need to know about that…” which, of course, only piqued his interest more. Finally, they broke it to him that it meant, “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution.” It was a joke at his expense that he took in stride, so he wore it as a badge of honor.
1. “Patron Saint of Chaos”
Secretary of Defense Mattis’ legendary status among the troops has earned him the title, “Saint Mattis of Quantico. Patron Saint of Chaos.”
Hail Mattis, full of hate. Our troops stand with thee. Blessed art though among enlisted. And blessed is the fruit of thy knife hand. Holy Mattis, father of War. Pray for us heathen, Now and at the hour of combat. Amen.
As the Army steadily grows its space force with current Soldiers, a path is now being offered to help cadets quickly become Functional Area 40 space operations officers.
Since its inception in 2008, FA40 has “developed billets and found technically qualified individuals to fill them,” said Mike Connolly, Army Space Personnel Development Office director.
The Army currently has approximately 3,000 billets in its force of space-qualified professionals, including 285 active component FA40 space operations officers. The increased need for space operations expertise within Army formations is resulting in further growth of Army’s space force, officials said.
As the core of the Army space force, FA40s provide in-depth expertise and experience to leverage space-related assets. They also deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, according to a news release.
The goal is to recruit and fill a rapidly increasing demand for Army officers into the FA40 career field each year, Connolly said, with initially 10 of these officers transferring as cadets through the Assured Functional Area Transfer program.
ASSURED FUNCTIONAL AREA TRANSFER
A more guaranteed route for officers to transfer into the Army space force begins before they commission under the A-FAT program. Upon commissioning into their operational basic branch, selected cadets with STEM degrees — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — will be assured a transfer into FA40 Space Operations at the four-year mark in their career.
While in their basic branch, the officers must remain in good military standing, and if selected, sign a contract to transfer into the Army space force as a space operations officer.
Once selected, FA40 officers attend the Space Operations Officer Qualification Course, which includes the National Security Space Institute, the Space 200 course, and seven weeks of Army-focused space training provided by the Space and Missile Defense Command’s Space and Missile Defense School.
The Army is steadily growing its space force due to an increased need to deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, officials said.
(Photo Credit: Catherine Deran)
VOLUNTARY TRANSFER INCENTIVE PROGRAM
The Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program is also accepting applications from eligible officers for a branch transfer into the Army space force at the four-year mark in their career. VTIP is the primary means of balancing branches and functional areas within the Army.
Once applications are received, officers are vetted from the current career field into the Army space operator career field. Subject-matter experts within the respective careers determine the best fit for the Army, by deciding which career best suits the applicant. In addition to technical abilities, applicants are vetted based on their values and leadership abilities.
Due to the needs of the Army, the VTIP program is not a guaranteed process for all applicants hoping to transfer into the Army’s space force, Connolly said.
The Army remains the largest user of space-based assets within the Defense Department, and nearly every piece of equipment Soldiers use “on a day-to-day basis” such as GPS devices and cell phones are space enabled, Connolly said.
In the future, he said, the Army’s prevalence toward space and need for more officers within Army’s space force will continue to grow.
Individuals interested in becoming an FA40 officer should visit the Space Knowledge Management System for additional information.
Some of the most treasured rituals involved in end-of-life care have become out of reach as we put in place the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness.
To protect our most vulnerable Veterans, the Community Living Center at VA Black Hills was the first ward to close to visitors. Even with compassionate exceptions, hospice visitation had a time limit and families could only visit one at a time. The policy required families to nearly give up the experience of physical touch, sharing memories and long goodbyes.
Dr. Mary Clark knew these protective measures were difficult for grieving families to accept. Hospice services aim to relieve suffering and provide bereavement support to families. Under normal circumstances, hospice care provides a comforting environment for families to share uninterrupted, quality time with their loved one. Clark is the Rehabilitation and Extended Care associate chief of staff.
Social worker Renee Radermacher works closely with Veterans and their families on the CLC. She thought of a way to give back some of what some families lost. She recommended converting one of the family rooms adjacent to the patient hospice room to a negative pressure room. This would provide an additional safety measure allowing up to three family members to visit for one hour each day.
VA Black Hills Hospice Family Room
A multi-disciplinary team addressed engineering, infection prevention, clinical considerations and social work. The team quickly added a reverse air flow machine and ready the room to receive families. Negative air flow is effective to reduce the transmission of dangerous infectious diseases. Along with good hygiene and masking, it allows families to spend more time with their loved ones, providing relief to the family
“The families are relieved” Dr. Clark said.
“Dr. Clark deserves all the credit for the hospice patients’ family visits. If not for her sensitivity and concern there would be no family visits and the patients would pass away alone,” added Brett Krout, safety manager and workgroup team member.
Providing compassionate patient care during this pandemic requires us to focus on safety while never forgetting the experience of the patient and their loved ones.
It’s more than a Grunt Style t-shirt, those awful Oakleys, or an American flag ball cap — you know, the one with the IR patch on the front? People don’t need to hear you ask if there’s a veteran’s discount or relate everything back to how your old unit did things.
People can tell you were in the military — just by looking at you.
8. The way you stand.
Some call it “command presence” while others call it “closed body language.” No matter what you call it, you stand there with your arms crossed, feet planted beneath your shoulders, and shoulders slightly hunched – you’re in a power stance: a military power stance. How better to show someone you’re frosty, collected, and listening to them than looking like you’re leaning on a pole without actually doing it.
You may have started the conversation with his hands on his hips, thumbs through belt loops.
“Your party called ahead. What now, POG?”
7. You are always 15 minutes early to everything.
People will figure out that if you aren’t 15 minutes early, you consider yourself late. Especially since you’ll call them to let them know… meanwhile, they haven’t even left their house yet.
For civilians, this works out because you’ll always be at a restaurant to put the group on the waiting list for a table. They will use this to their full advantage.
When you find out Yogurtland has froyo in Sea Salt Caramel.
6. You move fast.
It doesn’t matter if you actually have to be anywhere at a certain time, you move with a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose. You know that Pinkberry will still be there no matter when you arrive, but you still approach the cinnamon churro froyo like T-1000 chasing John Connor.
5. Your haircut.
This is a dead giveaway. Why would anyone on Earth willingly subject their head to the high and tight (or worse, the flattop) unless they were forced to keep it that way at some point? I’m pretty sure the coiffure equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome takes hold in TAPS class.
Like standing at parade rest for pizza.
4. You stand at parade rest for bizarre reasons.
Ever catch yourself staring out into the distance, perhaps over a lake at sunset, only to have an older guy tell you to “stop standing at parade rest for the goddamned lake, boot.” It’s a sign of respect for those above you and, after spending so long as an E-3, just a comfortable position to put yourself in.
Stand like you’re wearing a cavalry hat while meeting a foreign head of state.
3. Your ramrod-straight posture.
You stand tall. We all do. That’s not going to stop just because we stopped wearing a uniform.
It’s like they drilled it into you or something.
2. You walk with coordinated arm swings.
Have you ever noticed yourself walking down the street with your right arm perfectly in sync with your left leg and vice versa? That’s not an accident. You had all those military marches and facing movements drilled into you. They’re going to hang around for a while.
1. You eat so fast, people wonder if you ever taste food.
Appetizers, dinners, desserts — all gone in the blink of an eye. Wouldn’t it be great if you could slow down and enjoy the flavors of life? Well, you can’t. This is because you’re probably worried that, if you do, your stripper ex-wife will take that, too.
Over the last five years, two professional athletes moved from Brazil to the United States, competed in an Ironman World Championship, married and graduated with honors from Navy boot camp.
Silvia Ribeiro, 40, and Rafael Ribeiro Goncalves, 39, were both born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and they met while training for the same team. After years of triathlons and in sports, they said they felt it was time to offer their services to their new home, according to a recent Navy news release.
“I want to give back to the U.S. and what it represents,” Ribeiro Goncalves said in the release. “I spent my whole life competing or being part of projects that require really high performance, but it was always for myself.”
He added he realized later in life that what “really gets me going is when I’m part of something bigger than myself. Once I realized that, the military was the obvious choice.”
One year later, on Jan. 24, the couple graduated with honors from Recruit Training Command. Ribeiro earned the United Service Organization Shipmate Award for “exemplifying the spirit and intent of the word ‘shipmate'” while her husband was awarded the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award for his enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork.
The couple moved to the U.S. in 2015 after their friendship blossomed into love as they spent long periods training on the bike, running and swimming.
“It was so hard in the beginning as we literally arrived with two boxes of belongings, our bikes, a couple of suitcases and only ,000-,000,” Ribeiro said in the release. “It was rough in the beginning but we went for it and competed professionally in triathlons.”
She proposed to Ribeiro Goncalves as he crossed the finish line at the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Their friends showed up with just a day’s notice to their wedding wearing swim parkas and cycling gear.
Several years later, Navy boot camp separated the couple for two months. They were assigned to separate divisions and recruit interaction directives keep them from talking to each other despite their barracks being less than 1,000 yards apart. To stay somewhat in touch, they used a mutual friend to relay updates on how each other was doing.
“The toughest part was to be away from him and not knowing how he was doing,” Ribeiro said. “We were training together and doing everything together, so it was very hard not having him by my side doing things together. He is everything for me.”
The two have a strong history of athleticism that came in handy with their time at boot camp.
Ribeiro Goncalves was on the Brazilian national swim team for 10 years, winning the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) 400-meter individual medley World Cup medals in 1998 and 2000. Ribeiro was a professional volleyball player who later became a professional triathlete.
“The main thing they teach us in boot camp is how to work under stress,” Ribeiro said. “I had no problems dealing with this because being professional athletes, we’re always under stress and we’re always tired. There was no single day where we were both not moaning about how tired we were when we used to train for the triathlons, so that helped us a lot.”
The two ran into each other once during their training, before they were supposed to go to a Navy Recruit Training Command board for evaluation for awards.
“They told me my uniform would be inspected too,” Ribeiro said after completing a 3-mile pride run with her division, “so when I turned the corner into the hallway, I was busy looking over my uniform and when I looked up — he was in front of me. I almost had a heart attack.”
She said they exchanged looks, and then they both winked at each other.
“We talked with our eyes: ‘I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.’ It was so hard not to cry,” she said.
Their success was not surprising to their friends.
Sailors Graduate From Recruit Training Command
“For them, it’s go hard or go home,” said Jim Garfield, who was Ribeiro’s sports agent. “It’s 110 percent for them and they are also so appreciative of the opportunity to be here, to be citizens, and to be together.”
They advised future couples going through Navy boot camp to remember it’s only temporary, which is “nothing compared to your whole life.”
“A strong relationship makes everything better,” Ribeiro Goncalves said. “I was looking forward to the day I would see her again.”
Ribeiro Goncalves will stay at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois attending his “A” School as a damage controlman, and Ribeiro is going to San Antonio, Texas to begin her “A” School training as a Reserve hospital corpsman. Once they’re done with their training, they plan to reunite at Ribeiro Goncalves’ first duty station once their training is complete.
The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.
Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.
Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.
The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.
As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.
The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.
The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.
As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.
An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.
“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”
As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.
He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.
“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”
Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.
From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.
“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.
There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.
“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”
The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.
When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.
It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.
At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.
“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”
Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.
Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”
“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”
They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.
At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.
Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.
“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”
With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.
Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.
Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.
“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”
But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”
Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.
The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.
Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.
“Are you serious?” Russell replied.
Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.
Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.
As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.
“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.
Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.
“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.
Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.
As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.
“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.
But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”
Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.
“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.
Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.
“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.
He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.
Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.
“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.
The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.
During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.
Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.
That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.
Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.
“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”
Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.
Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.
Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.
One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.
Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.
“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.
Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”
Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.
The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.
“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”
The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.
Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.
Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.
Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.
Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.
After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.
“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.
The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.
Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.
“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”
The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.
The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.
“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.
He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.
Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.
Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.
As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.
Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.
Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.
As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.
The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.
Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.
Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.
“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.
The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.
“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”
Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.
As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.
“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.
When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.
“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.
Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.
Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.
The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:
Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles
Major Stephen C. Reich
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III
Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.
The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.
Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.
Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.
The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.
For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.