Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire - We Are The Mighty
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Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Silver Star | Public Domain


An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.

Also read: Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

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Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven had an esteemed 37-year military career — which included leading the assassination of Osama bin Laden — but it was a night from Navy SEAL training’s Hell Week that taught him the power of a leader.


In 2014, McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, breaking down the 10 biggest lessons he learned in the six months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) training in his early 20s, and how they were universally applicable.

Now the chancellor of the University of Texas system, McRaven has released “Make Your Bed,” a short book expanding upon these principles he spoke about a few years ago.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony. | DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp

In it, he recounts his night in the Tijuana mud flats, where he and his fellow SEAL candidates had virtually every inch of their bodies covered in mud, the experience made worse by a brutally cold night.

Hell Week comes during week three of the six month-long BUD/S training, and is meant to weed out early the candidates who are not ready to become SEALs. According to SOFREP, only about 25% of candidates make it through the week’s intense trials of physical and mental endurance.

One of the trials involves various exercises in expanses of cold, neck-high, clay-like mud.

As McRaven remembers, on this particular day, he and his fellow candidates had spent hours racing each other in boats, paddling through the mud. Now they were standing in it during a suddenly chilling night. To make it worse, it was only the halfway mark of Hell Week. Doubt was setting in among all the young men.

“Shaking uncontrollably, with hands and feet swollen from nonstop use and skin so tender that even the slightest movement brought discomfort, our hope for completing the training was fading fast,” McRaven writes.

From the edge of the flats, an instructor with a bullhorn tried to lure the candidates to comfort. The instructors, he said, had a fire going and had plenty of hot soup and coffee to share. Furthermore, if just five of the candidates quit, the rest of the guys would be given a break. Taking this offer meant ending your SEAL training.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
BUD/S trainees covered in mud during Hell Week. | Department of Defense photo

A student next to McRaven started walking through the mud toward the instructor. McRaven remembers the instructor smiling. “He knew that once one man quit, others would follow,” McRaven writes.

Then one of the candidates started singing. It was raspy and out of tune. Even though it sounded terrible, other students soon joined him, including the one who was on the verge of quitting.

The instructor began yelling at them, demanding that they stop. “With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger, and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable,” McRaven writes. He remembers that behind the facade of anger, he could see the instructor smiling at the turn of events.

McRaven realized that all it took was one person to unite the entire group, when many of them were on the verge of abandoning their goal.

Interestingly, former Navy SEAL platoon commander Leif Babin writes in his book “Extreme Ownership,” that he learned a similar lesson when he was one of the Hell Week instructors. When the instructors switched the leaders of the best and worst performing boat race teams, they were amazed to see that the formerly worst team rose to the top under new leadership, while the formerly best team suddenly dropped in the rankings under its new poor leader. It was proof to Babin that, “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.” One exceptional person can change the entire fate of a group.

The night in the mudflats stuck with McRaven during his maturation as an exceptional leader, one who would rise to the highest rank in the Navy, lead all of America’s special operations, and oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we,” McRaven writes. “If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US threatens to sanction Turkey over an American pastor

U.S. President Donald Trump says Washington is ready to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey unless authorities there allow a U.S. pastor being detained on house arrest to go free.

“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man, and wonderful human being,” Trump wrote in a tweet.


“He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!” he added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued a Twitter statement shortly afterward saying that “no one dictates [to] Turkey.”

“We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception,” he wrote.

Trump’s comments come an hour after Vice President Mike Pence issued a similar threat, warning of “significant sanctions” against Ankara.

“To President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences,” Pence said, speaking at a State Department event in Washington to advance religious freedom.

Brunson, who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, was jailed in 2016 and was indicted a year later on terrorism and espionage charges, accused of aiding groups Ankara alleges were behind a failed military coup in 2016.

Brunson was held in custody until July 25, 2018, when he was transferred to house arrest.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move to house arrest was “not enough” and that he should be allowed to leave Turkey.

Featured image: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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VA’s LA campus draft master plan just released, needs vet input

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
(Photo courtesy of NPR.org)


The Department of Veteran Affairs has just released the draft master plan for how the agency intends to improve the campus of its West Los Angeles facility after years of encroachment, misuse, and neglect. The plan follows a landmark legal ruling last year following a lawsuit that alleged that VA was violating the covenant of an 1888 deed whereby the United States acquired title to the West LA Campus by misusing parts of it for commercial purposes in lieu of caring for and serving veterans.

The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. Vets Advocacy and We Are The Mighty have joined forces in a grassroots campaign to assist the veteran community in voicing how they’d like to see VA services provided at the West LA VA campus.

“With the proper veteran input, the West LA VA redevelopment plan has the potential to serve as a 21st Century blueprint for VA campuses nationwide,” said Jonathan Sherin, a psychiatrist and veteran advocate who has been a key facilitator of the planning effort.

The new master plan for the West LA Campus will help VA determine and implement the most effective use of the campus for veterans, particularly for homeless veterans, including underserved populations such as female veterans, aging veterans, and those who are severely physically or mentally disabled. Focus areas include considerations surrounding vet housing (both temporary and permanent), vet services, and historic preservation.

The draft plan divides the campus into four zones labeled (1-4 respectively) “Healthcare Excellence,” “Coordinated Care,” “Veteran Housing,” and “Recreation.” Details of each zone can be found in the document.

“This draft master plan provides the VA with a stronger foundation to build a 21st century healthcare campus and vibrant community for veterans,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. “It also helps to ensure we will have the housing and healthcare resources needed to sustain the mission of ending veteran homelessness.”

Now that the draft master plan has been published, veterans have 45 days to review it and provide inputs, thereby helping to ensure the plan meets the needs of those it is designed to assist. The master plan can be viewed and downloaded and comments can be submitted at #VATHERIGHTWAY.

Articles

Go behind the scenes with the military side of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire


“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an ambitious project for Tina Fey to undertake for a couple of reasons: First, it’s a drama and not a comedy. Second, she plays a journalist embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which means the movie tees up a lot of military details that Hollywood has a history of getting wrong — much to the chagrin of the military community.

But fortunately for Ms. Fey, the production team behind “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” knew a few things about making a movie that deals with military subjects, not the least of which was understanding how to navigate the Pentagon’s approval process.

“Because of this script we had a need from the beginning to get the U.S. military to support the project,” producer Ian Bryce said. “The military does quite well to make these movies great.”

Bryce approached the Department of Defense’s director of entertainment media, Philip Strub, a guy he’d worked with before on other military-related movies. Strub had some reservations about whether “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” ultimately presented the U.S. military in the right light.

“But we talked it through,” Bryce said.

Ultimately Bryce was able to convince Strub that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an accurate, positive portrayal of the American military experience, and so the effort got the green light from the Pentagon for direct U.S. military support. The crew wound up using Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to replicate Bagram Air Force Base as well as the surrounding lands to replicate the wilds of Afghanistan.

The movie features Air Force pararescue airmen and their assets including H-60 helicopters and CV-22 tiltrotors. And although access to the real people and machinery made the shoot easier (and provided a greater guarantee of accuracy), Bryce pointed out that it still took a great deal of coordination to get the job done while honoring the fact that making movies wasn’t the U.S. Air Force’s primary duty.

“We recognized and embraced the fact that we were guests on a military facility,” Bryce said. “They are doing much more serious stuff.”

Watch:

The digital HD version of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” has just been released  and contains special features including an interview with the author of the original book, in-depth looks at life in Afghanistan and how war correspondents cope with stress, and deleted scenes. Look for the Blu-Ray version on June 28.

Check out more about “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” here and here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”

The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1

www.youtube.com

The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

(Pin Up for Vets)

Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.

She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.

In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.

The result is exceptional.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”

While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.

You can help support their initiatives by checking out their online shop and pre-ordering your 2021 calendar today!
MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Spoiled brat’ says Army put him in his place

“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”

Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”

“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.


By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)

Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”

Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”

Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”

“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”

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

Articles

It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why World War II veterans are returning captured Japanese flags

It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.

So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?


The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.

These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.

Read: These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marines with a yosegaki hinomaru after the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Army)

But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.

And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.

If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.

There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.

Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Another woman is trying to make history as the Corps’ first female commando

A Marine who last year became the first woman to reach the end of Phase One in MARSOC’s assessment and selection course is planning to return for a second attempt early next year.


The woman, then a corporal, reached the conclusion of the 19-day course in August 2016, but did not have the minimum academic and physical training scores to move on to the secretive second phase.

She is planning to reattempt Phase One in January, Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, told Military.com.

The command declined to identify her to protect her privacy.

To date, two women have attempted to join the elite ranks of MARSOC Raiders as critical skills operators since the previously closed jobs opened to women in early 2016. Both women, the corporal and a staff sergeant, came from administrative backgrounds.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Both women began assessment and selection, or AS, in early August 2016. The staff sergeant left the course a day in after failing to meet the minimum time requirement on a ruck march.

Officials said at the time that 31 men also washed out in the first week of the demanding special operations course.

All Marines who attempt the first phase of AS are given multiple opportunities to pass, Mannweiler said.

Demands of the course are physical and mental. Marines are required to complete a 12-mile march carrying a pack weighing more than 45 pounds within three hours, to swim 300 meters wearing their camouflage uniforms, and to pass classroom exercises during the 19-day phase.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee

For Phase 2, the requirements and trials that MARSOC candidates face remain a closely guarded secret.

The three-week phase “is a mentally and physically challenging evaluation that enables MARSOC to identify Marines that have attributes compatible with special operations missions and the MARSOC way of life,” according to official informational materials.

Once Marines begin Phase 2, Mannweiler said, they do not have the chance to re-attempt it.

To date, no other women have identified themselves as candidates for AS, Mannweiler said, although recruiters continue to publicize the opportunity.

“We go out and send recruiting teams to all the bases,” he said. “It’s gender agnostic — here are the requirements we’re looking for, here’s the fitness program.”

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
A U.S. Marine with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) crawls under an obstacle with a MARSOC canine during the MARSOC Multi-Purpose canine subject matter expert exchange conference on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 4, 2016. MARSOC specializes in direct action, special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense and has also been directed to conduct counter-terrorism and information operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler S. Dietrich, MCIWEST-MCB CamPen Combat Camera/Released)

Few women in any service have attempted to enter the elite and demanding field of special operations since previously closed jobs became available.

As of August, there were two women in the training pipeline to become Air Force Tactical Control Party (TAC-P) specialists; none have entered the field to date.

Earlier this year, Military.com broke the news that the Navy had its first female candidates for SEAL officer and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, or SWCC. But the SEAL candidate for dropped out of the training pipeline in August.

The Army is slightly further ahead in integrating women into special operations. The first female soldier passed qualifications to enter the 75th Ranger Regiment early this year.

Articles

7 powerful ways American culture has changed the world

America is the dominant world power since World War II. Chinese propaganda claim that China will replace the United States in the new century. However, if the Chinese Communist Party is advancing by leaps and bounds, why isn’t Mandarin the universal world language? While it is true that China is the world’s largest manufacturer, the fact remains the world sees American culture as genuine. The Chinese way, like their products, is just a knock off. This is how American culture changed the world in a way the communists never will.

1. Jeans

The iconic American trouser was invented in 1873 by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss. The pants were originally developed for miners because their clothes would rip when working. Davis and Levi devised a trouser made of denim with rivets at high-stress points and a button at the waist. The patented trousers called jeans were worn by blue collar individuals and were romanticized by Western films. When the patent ran out, other competitors copied the science but changed the design.

The Blue Jean spread around the world like wildfire for its practicality and style. Some countries, such as North Korea, have banned jeans because ‘it symbolizes American imperialism.’ I don’t see countries en masse adopting Chinese pants and culture.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
To be fair, we might owe the world an apology for the skinny version on men (Wikimedia Commons)

2. Pop Music

America has the best musical artists in the world. Nobody says “put the top 100 in China” as a Spotify playlist. When I was in Afghanistan I told an A.N.A. (Afghanistan National Army) soldier, who was listening to Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop” passed away years ago. Not only did he not believe me but he became irate. Imagine if I would have brought up the allegations against him when he was still alive. Regardless, the world listens to our music even if they can’t understand it.

3. Capitalism

The theory of exchanging goods and services for money has been around since ancient Babylon. However, America has become synonymous with the idea of capitalism and free trade. The alternative is state-run enterprises that give the illusion of private ownership, such as in China. Regardless, the American way of commerce does have its weaknesses that cause recessions. By the same virtue, capitalism can also recover – and it does.

4. Social Media

Americans are trendsetters. All of the original social platforms were developed in America.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Now that’s power (Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay)

5. The Internet

Speaking of what is on the internet, the internet itself was made in America. The government developed the ARPANET (Advanced research Projects Agency Network) building on the technology of computers already available. The first network, for all intent and purposes, was between USCLA and Stanford University. The first message sent was “Login,” but only the two first letters arrived. Task failed successfully. Communication is always key on the battlefield. Even now, you the reader and I the author, are communicating using this technology that has proliferated the world. There isn’t a country on earth where our culture of technology hasn’t reached out and touched someone.

6. Airplanes

Fun fact: out of the two Wright brothers, one (Orville) lived until 1948. Imagine inventing the concept of flight then watching the Axis use it to try to conquer the world. Then, by the time the war is over, the U.S. Government develops the jet engine in 1939. You set out to live your dreams with your sibling and all of this happens in the span of your lifetime.

7. Basketball

Baseball may have held the claim of “America’s pastime” for most of the 20th Century. However, I see infinitely more people playing basketball than any other sport. In the military, it’s the easiest team sport to round up the platoon and get to the courts on short notice.  In fact, the Army helped spread the sport to Europe and China during the first World War. The sport was started in a YMCA in Massachusetts but is played in even developing countries around the world – even North Korea.

Feature image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Only a handful of the Air Force’s B-1 bombers are ready to deploy

Despite high demand, there are only a handful of B-1B Lancer bombers available to take off at a moment’s notice.

The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Air Force Gen. John Hyten, told Senate Armed Services Committee members the service has only six bombers that are ready to deploy.

“We have B-1B bombers; this is the workhorse of the Air Force today,” Hyten said during his tense confirmation hearing to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


“Right now, of all of our B-1 bombers, we have six of them that are fully mission capable: five split between Ellsworth Air Force Base [South Dakota] and Dyess Air Force Base [Texas], one is a test aircraft, 15 B-1s are in depot,” he said. “The remaining 39 of 44 B-1s at Ellsworth and at Dyess are down for a variety of discrepancies and inspections.”

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Air Force Central Command, takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) officials told Task Purpose on July 31, 2019, there are seven fully mission capable bombers.

Hyten said the B-1 has borne the brunt of constant deployment cycles.

“We saw issues in the B-1 because we’re just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them. And so we had to pull back a little bit and get after fixing those issues. And the depots can do that if they have stable funding,” he said.

Gen. Tim Ray, commander of AFGSC, agreed that demand has outstripped available aircraft.

During a speech at the Deterrence Symposium in Nebraska on July 31, 2019, Ray spoke about “setting the pace” for deterrence, saying that sometimes the demand for resources wins out.

Earlier in 2019, Ray said the Air Force overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade, causing it to deteriorate more quickly than expected.

“We overextended the B-1s in [U.S. Central Command],” he told reporters during a breakfast with reporters April 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Ray said that’s why he recalled the aircraft to the U.S. to receive upgrades and maintenance to prepare for the next high-end fight.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagle fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)

“Normally, you would commit — [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft — about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot,” he explained. “We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade. So the wear and tear on the crews, the maintainers, and certainly the airplane, that was my cause for asking for us to get out of the CENTCOM fight.”

Last year, B-1s returned to the Middle East for the first time in nearly two-and-a-half years to take over strike missions from the B-52 Stratofortress. The last rotation of bombers from Dyess returned home March 11, 2019, according to Air Force Magazine.

By the end of March 2019, Ray had ordered a stand-down, marking the second fleetwide pause in about a year.

AFGSC officials said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet. Ray said his immediate concern was for the aircrews’ safety.

The aircraft resumed flights April 23, 2019.

The command again grounded the fleet over safety concerns last year over a problem also related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. Officials ordered a stand-down June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagles fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)

That pause was the direct result of an emergency landing made by a Dyess-based B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.

Then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the B-1 had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow during an earlier in-flight problem.

Lawmakers took note this summer: The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in its markup of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requested that the Air Force offer a plan for how it will address the B-1’s problems. Committee members were aware that the B-1’s availability rates were in the single digits, according to Air Force Times.

The B-1’s mission-capable rate — the ability to fly at any given time to conduct operations — is 51.75%, according to fiscal 2018 estimates, Air Force Times recently reported. By comparison, its bomber cousins, the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, have mission-capable rates of 60.7% and 69.3%, respectively.

The Air Force has 62 Lancers in its fleet. It plans to retire the bombers in 2036.

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

Articles

17 photos that show that the military’s water-survival training is no joke

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Sgt. William Wickett, 2nd Radio Battalion, performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, North Carolina, March 5, 2013. | U.S. Marine Corps


America’s amphibious Marine Corps and Navy SEALs are some of the most elite fighting forces on the planet, with the ability to deploy in all environments — especially the sea.

That’s why the military has created schools to prepare operators from all the sister-service branches to be physically fit, mentally tough, and responsive in high-stress aquatic situations.

During combat water-survival exercises, candidates swim with their hands and feet bound, assemble machine guns underwater, and take on the seas in full combat gear.

Below, we’ve collected 17 pictures showing just how rigorous their training can be.

A Marine uses his Supplemental Emergency Breathing Device prior to escaping the simulated helicopter seat during Shallow Water Egress Training at the Camp Hansen pool.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Kuppers

Marines and sailors with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion perform flutter kicks during combat water-survival training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps

Petty Officers 3rd Class Brandon McKenney and Randall Carlson assemble an M240G machine gun 15 feet underwater during the 4th Annual Recon Challenge at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Wolff-Diaz

A sailor performs underwater kettle-bell walks to increase lung power and endurance at Scott Pool, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro

Sgt. William Wickett performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, North Carolina.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Sgt. William Wickett performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, North Carolina. Sgt. William Wickett performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, North Carolina. | U.S. Marine Corps

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL students participate in night gear exchange during the second phase of training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr

Army candidates tread water during the Combat Water Survival Test, on January 28, 2016.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Army

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joe Medrano watches as a cadet launches blindfolded and carrying an M16 from a 16-foot diving board during the Combat Water Survival Test, January 28, 2016.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Army

Reconnaissance Marines enter the water with their ankles and hands bound during the water training at Camp Schwab.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps

A Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, dives underwater to perform a self-rescue drill during a swim-qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andre Dakis

Raid Force Marines climb aboard a rigid-hull inflatable boat after conducting combat-swimming exercises at sea.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar Balacy, right, documents a surface-supplied dive.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson C. Bomjardim

Students at the Search and Rescue Swimmer School at Naval Base San Diego rescue a simulated helicopter-crash survivor under the supervision of an instructor.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro

Sailors conduct cast and recovery training.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jayme Pastoric

An instructor watches as a sailor familiarizes himself with diving equipment while underwater.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Blake Midnight

A soldier with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conducts helo-cast training with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during Exercise Iron Fist 2014 at Camp Pendleton.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos

A Marine swims 50 meters (164 feet) with a full combat load during Marine Corps Water Survival Training at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
U.S. Marine Corps

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