America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez - We Are The Mighty
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America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Diego Hernandez, who was the first Hispanic-American to serve as vice commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has died at the age of 83.


According to a report by the Miami Herald, Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who was shot down twice and awarded the Silver Star among other decorations, passed away on July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Hernandez was best known as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer of Hispanic descent.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
A Navy F-4 Phantom drops bombs over Vietnam. Hernandez flew 147 missions in the Vietnam War, and was shot down twice. (US Navy photo)

Born in 1934, Hernandez came from a working-class family in Puerto Rico. In 1955, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he entered the Navy. In 1956, he was designated a Naval Aviator. After flying 147 combat missions over Vietnam, he attended the Naval War College and served on the faculty.

His later career included tours commanding VF-84 (the famous “Jolly Rogers”), Air Wing Six, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and the Third Fleet.

During his time at the Third Fleet, Hernandez played a major role in integrating Alaska into United States Pacific Command and turning that force into one that was ready to take on the Soviets around the Aleutian Islands and off the Kamchatka Peninsula.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), one of the commands Vice Adm. Hernandez held during his 36-year military career. (US Navy photo)

“Duke’s task was to turn this ‘McHale’s Navy’-style lash-up into a proper combat-oriented staff. It fell to Duke to awaken the whole Pacific Fleet to this, shall we say, cold reality,” retired Navy Capt. Charles Connor told the Miami Herald.

After commanding the Third Fleet, Hernandez took the post as vice commander as NORAD, which also made him the deputy commander of Space Command.

“He had his hands on the red buttons with all our atomic warfare,” former Miami mayor Maurice Ferré told the Miami Herald.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
Adm. Hernandez was deputy commander of NORAD, which included the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

After his retirement, he served with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Minority Veterans as a member of the Advisory Committee. He also helped plan for the future transportation needs of Miami-Dade County, highlighted by the opening of the Port Miami Tunnel in 2014.

Admiral Hernandez’s funeral will be held Saturday at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Miami Lakes.

Articles

This is what a Mk 38 Bushmaster can do to an Iranian speedboat

You’ve probably followed the reports of how Iranian speedboats have harassed U.S. Navy vessels. Frustrating, aren’t they? Well, think about it this way… we’ve been “showing restraint.”


The thing is, those speedboats are not really Iranian Navy. Instead, they belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. These speedboats, which are often equipped with heavy machine guns, rockets, and other weapons, got a reputation for attacking merchant traffic in the Iran-Iraq War. Back then, they were called “Boghammars” after the Swedish company that built the first boats used by the Iranians.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

Today, their primary threat to an American warship could be as a suicide craft. That said, American ships have options to address these craft. Two of the most prominent are the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster and the M2 heavy machine gun. The M2 is a legend. It’s been used on everything from tanks to aircraft to ships, and against just about every target you can imagine.

Now, the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster is not as well-known. That said, it’s been in quite common use. It got its start on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, where the Army calls it the M242.

It needs a lot of luck to kill a tank, but it can bust up other infantry fighting vehicles, trucks, groups of infantry, even helicopters and aircraft. The Bushmaster made its way to the Marine Corps LAV-25.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
A Task Force Liberty Soldier from 3rd Infantry Division stands guard in an M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle near an Iraqi police checkpoint in Tikrit, Iraq. The Bradley main armament is the M242 25mm (Bushmaster) Chain Gun. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute, and has a range of 2,000 meters making it capable of defeating the majority of armored including some main battle tanks. (DOD photo)

The Navy put the Bushmaster on ships, and it comprises the main armament of the Cyclone-class patrol craft. Each Cyclone has two of these guns, one of which is paired with a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The guns are also used on other surface combatants as well. The guns can do a lot of damage.

You can see the Mk 38 and the M2 go to work on a speedboat in the video below. One almost an imagine that the Iranian speedboat crews may be asking themselves the question that Harry Callahan told a bank robber to ask himself: “Do I feel lucky?”

Well, do they?

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to kick your military spouse goals in the face this year

As the holiday season begins to wind down, people are starting to reflect on their resolutions and goals for the new year. 2020 not only marks the beginning of a New Year, but the start of a new decade! Don’t let the hype get you in a frenzy. Here are 5 tips rocking your 2020 military spouse goals.


America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

(Photo by Kari Shea)

1. Set realistic goals

Listen! Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your enthusiasm to do it all is admirable, but DO NOT set yourself up for failure. Apply the SMART Goals method in your plans for 2020. You want to ensure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. What does that mean? Don’t just set a goal to start a million-dollar business. Instead, set a goal to start an online virtual assistant business by Second Quarter 2020. First Quarter, you will have established your LLC, EIN, and business bank account. By the end of Second Quarter, your business will be operating with a goal of at least ten new clients. This example is more realistic and you can actually see if you are meeting your benchmarks for success.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

(Photo by Jason Coudriet)

2. Get creative

You can write your goals in your planner, but why not get creative? Vision Board or Vision Mapping Parties are a great way to have fun while creating a visual representation of your goals. Vision Board parties are a fun and interactive way to celebrate the coming year. All you need is poster board, old magazines, scissors, glue, and other decorative items to make your board unique. Cut out pictures or words from magazines that represent what you want to accomplish for 2020. Kids can also create their own vision board. While enjoying snacks and drinks, reflect over the past year. Did you meet your 2019 goals? How can you do things differently? What worked for you? What didn’t work?

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

3. Deconstruct

Goals can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when looking at the end game. Try deconstructing your goal by working backwards. What are the steps needed to meet your overall goal or vision? How can you focus on smaller tasks to better track your progress? If you have a goal of saving ,000 for a family vacation, don’t let the number intimidate you. Break it down into more manageable parts. How much would you need to save each quarter, each month, each week? What does that look like? Does it mean you pack your lunch more during the week or downgrade to a lower cable package? Saving per week may be less scary than ,000 per year, but the outcome is the same.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

(Photo by John Schnobrich)

4. Get an accountability partner

This person can be your spouse, best friend, or anyone in your circle that is willing to hold you accountable. Sometimes it’s best to find someone who is also looking for the same type of accountability for themselves. This would be something similar to a Battle Buddy in the Army or Wingman in the Air Force. Your partner will help you stay focused, remind you to keep going, and be an overall support for you.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

(Photo by Simon Migaj)

5. Relax

Don’t be so hard on yourself. The purpose of having clear goals and intentions is so you’re not stressed. If you don’t quite meet all of your goals, it’s okay. Celebrate your wins along the way for additional encouragement. This is where you can really lean on your accountability partner. You may have to adjust some things throughout the year. Take the lessons learned and implement that into your vision to improve your likelihood of success.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime

The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.


These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
USS Gonzalez at a more sedate pace. (US Navy photo)

But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.

The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
USS Farragut (DDG 99) comes out of a high-speed turn. (US Navy photo)

Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.

Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
What can happen when a torpedo hits: South Korean and American officers walk past what os left the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vih4tGmqjs
MIGHTY TRENDING

Strange reports in Saudi Arabia spark rumors of a coup attempt

Twitter and news outlets came alive with spotty, unconfirmed news reports of an incident in Saudi Arabia that some sources were describing as a possible “coup attempt.” There has been no official verification of significant or organized action in the region and no reports have surfaced as of 00:30 Riyadh time on the BBC World News, but the volume of Twitter reports and private messages received by this reporter seem to indicate an incident of some significance.


Saudi Arabia has been so far successful in avoiding inclusion in the “Arab Spring” revolts that have toppled governments across the Middle East and began in Tunisia in 2010. Since then Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain have been subject to either government coups or coup attempts. The attempts at overthrowing the Syrian government have resulted in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the region now in its seventh year.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

As the minutes have passed during the last hour the volume of traffic about Saudi Arabia on Twitter has increased, but the region’s top Twitter reporter, @SamiAlJaber, has reported nothing specific about a “coup attempt”.

“An official Riyadh district police spokesman said that at about 19:50 p.m. on April 21, 2018, a security screening point in the Al-Khuzama district of Riyadh noticed a small, remote-controlled recreational aircraft (drone) flying without being authorized to do so, which required security personnel at the security point to deal with it in accordance with their orders and instructions in this regard,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported according to Newsweek.

The following traffic was monitored in the aftermath of the reported gunfire. It might be completely unrelated to the alleged attempted coup, still it’s worth of note, considered that according to flight tracking authority @CivMilAir the GL4 has always shadowed the Crown Prince’s UK, USA, France tours.

For instance, the same aircraft, registration HZ-MS4B was part of the fleet that supported the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman during his U.S. tour. Here’s a tweet dating back to a couple of weeks ago:


Concern about unrest in the country have been top of mind in the region for several years but the existing government has, to date, been mostly successful in moderating large, overt attempt at leadership change.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX is launching satellites that will hunt down smugglers and pirates

SpaceX hopes to fire off its next Falcon 9 rocket mission on Nov. 19, 2018. If the launch goes well, Elon Musk’s aerospace company may not only break spaceflight records, but also help fight nefarious behavior on the open ocean.

The goal of SpaceX’s upcoming mission, called SSO-A, is to put 71 satellites into orbit all at once. A company called Spaceflight Industries organized the mission, and it claims this is the largest-ever rideshare mission in US history, as spacecraft from 35 different companies and organizations will fly aboard the rocket.


However, three microwave-oven-sized spacecraft on the mission — a cluster called Pathfinder — are particularly worth noting.

The trio of spacecraft belong to a startup called HawkEye 360, and they’re designed to “see” radio signals from space. The company’s software will take unique radio signals coming from ships to “fingerprint” vessels, track them over time, and even forecast future movements.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

An illustration of the SSO-A payload deploying CubeSats and microsatellites.

(Spaceflight Industries)

If Pathfinder works, authorities around the world could gain a major leg up in hunting “dark ships”: vessels that turn off GPS location transponders, often to hide their whereabouts and engage in illicit activity.

Such activity includes illegal fishing, smuggling, drug trafficking, and piracy, and it amounts to roughly trillion each year, says John Serafini, the CEO of HawkEye 360.

“We care about the folks that are not doing the right thing. We care about the vessels that don’t want to be found,” Serafini told Business Insider. “We’re focused on detecting those and stopping them.”

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

A HawkEye 360 data visualization that shows every instance over a month in which a boat turned off its automatic identification system (AIS) for more than 8 hours.

(HawkEye 360)

Hunting ‘dark ships’ with radio waves

HawkEye 360 claims it’s unique not only for its radio-signal-detecting technology, but also artificial-intelligence-powered software the startup has developed to process data.

“You couldn’t have started this company 10 years ago,” Serafini said. “The costs were too high, and the technology wasn’t there.”

He added that HawkEye 360 exists today because of the increasing miniaturization of electronics, SpaceX’s lower-cost rocket launches, and advancements in machine learning.

Pathfinder, like the other satellites SpaceX is launching, will sweep around Earth from pole-to-pole in what’s called a sun-synchronous orbit — hence the “SSO” in the mission’s name. (The “A” signifies that it’s the first of multiple rideshare missions.) This orbit keeps sunlight drenching a spacecraft’s solar panels while allowing it to fly over every square inch of the planet.

The antennas of Pathfinder can detect a wide range of radio signals above about 1 watt in power. (“Cell phones are well below a watt in power,” Serafini said. “We don’t have the ability or the focus to do that.”)

This means the cluster can triangulate normally hard-to-pinpoint signals from satellite phones, push-to-talk radios, and marine radar. Ships need these and other radio-emitting tools to navigate the seas, the thinking goes.

This is especially true for “dark ships,” since those vessels turn off a mandatory device called an automatic identification system, or AIS. The AIS broadcasts a ship’s GPS location to avoid collisions, but turning it off is a common trick vessels use if they’re slipping into unapproved fishing zones or trafficking illegal drugs, wares, or people.

Serafini said that may soon cease to be an effective way to avoid getting noticed.

“If you’re turning on and off the AIS, we’re going to track your other emitters. If you try to turn them all off, you’re effectively negating your operation. You need to use them to navigate and communicate,” Serafini said. “If you do that, we’ve won. You can’t be effective.”

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

HawkEye 360’s three microsatellites that will form its Pathfinder constellation.

(HawkEye 360)

How Pathfinder works

The Pathfinder system relies on the fact that every radio transponder on Earth is built differently, even if it’s made by the same person in the same factory. Minor variations in parts and assembly lead to subtle differences in radio emissions that HawkEye 360 says it can detect and exploit.

More importantly, by tracking a mix of radio emissions on a ship and pairing those with AIS signals (when the devices are turned on), the company can “fingerprint” every ocean vessel on Earth. That way, even if a ship is “spoofing” its AIS data, the company says it will know; AIS data will report one location, but the vessel’s radio fingerprint will reveal its true location.

HawkEye 360 says it has already proved that its system works by equipping three Cessna jet airplanes with Pathfinder technology, flying them over the Chesapeake Bay, and detecting ships that were spoofing their AIS data.

“We were able to not only detect the AIS spoofing but also geolocate the ships using their other radio signals,” Chris DeMay, the founder and CTO of HawkEye 360, told Business Insider. “We were able to map where the ship actually was and compare that to where the ship said it was.”

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

Data from HawkEye 360’s airplane-based test of its core technology. Blue dots show reported locations, based on automatic identification system (AIS) data, while orange dots show radio-frequency-based locations. Red circles indicate a zone of 95% certainty.

(HawkEye 360/ESRI)

In addition to fingerprinting such vessels, HawkEye 360’s machine-learning algorithms will also be able to determine typical activity patterns for a ship and flag any unusual deviation.

Over time, the company says, it could even forecast the future locations of individual vessels based on their past behavior.

“Because we’ll be the first ones to do this, we’ll be the first ones to bring it to the commercial market,” Serafini said.

The future of tracking radio signals from above

The Pathfinder satellite cluster will give HawkEye 360 a global view of certain radio transmissions on Earth once every four to six hours. But DeMay and Serafini say that’s just the beginning.

According to them, HawkEye 360 is backed by about million in funding (enough to operate for 18 months), has 31 employees, and has secured 0 million in contracts. In the future, they aim to launch six more three-satellite clusters, which will create a constellation that can map Earth’s radio signals once every 30 to 40 minutes.

Launching larger and more capable satellites will also improve the company’s ability to detect weaker signals.

“Trucks use radio emitters that we could detect and track,” Serafini said. “If a truck is known to have a history of illegal border crossing, we might want to track that particular object.”

The company expects the US military to be increasingly interested in the technology, especially considering that HawkEye 360 can deploy its sensors on airplanes and high-altitude balloons (in addition to satellites). That feature could allow for real-time tracking of drones and weak signals on a battlefield.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

An illustration of a cell tower transmitting data.

(HawkEye 360)

Another planned use of Pathfinder is more down-to-earth: The technology could detect improper use of the radio-frequency spectrum, including interference between cell-phone towers. Such interference can cause data loss between mobile devices and towers, leading to slow and unreliable internet, among other problems.

Ground crews with trucks typically drive around towers to search for and identify such problems, but such teams and equipment can expensive to deploy, especially on a nationwide scale.

“It’s like that Verizon ‘Can you hear me now?’ guy, but in space,” DeMay said — and possibly a lot cheaper and more effective.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. personnel injured ahead of massive war games

Tens of thousands of NATO troops have converged on Norway for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.

The exercise officially starts on Oct. 25, 2018, but the arrival of thousands of troops and their equipment in the harsh environs of the North Atlantic and Scandinavia hasn’t gone totally smoothly.

On Oct. 23, 2018, four US soldiers were injured in a roadway accident as they delivered cargo to Kongens Gruve, Norway, in support of the exercise.


“The accident occurred when three vehicles collided and a fourth vehicle slid off the pavement and overturned while trying to avoid the three vehicles that had collided,” the US Joint Information Center said, according to Reuters.

One of the soldiers was released shortly after being hospitalized, and as of late Oct. 23, 2018, the three others were in stable condition but still under observation, according to the information center. The troops and their trucks were assigned to the Army’s 51st Composite Truck Company, stationed in Baumholder, Germany.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

A US Army Stryker vehicle completes an uncontested wet-gap crossing near Chełmno, Poland, June 2, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

US ships taking part have also encountered trouble.

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall, part of a group of ships carrying a Marine Corps contingent to the exercise, returned to port in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Oct. 22, 2018, after heavy seas caused damage to the ship and injuries to its sailors.

The US 6th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Atlantic around Europe, said the ship’s well deck and several of the landing craft aboard it were damaged. The Gunston Hall returned to port for a damage assessment, though there was no timetable for its completion, the fleet said.

The sailors who were injured received medical treatment and returned to duty.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

A landing craft enters the well deck of the USS Gunston Hall to embark for Trident Juncture 2018, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)

The amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, also on hand for the exercise, also returned to Reykjavik “as a safe haven from the seas until further notice,” the fleet said.

A 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times that the seas were challenging “but not out of the [Gunston Hall’s] limits” and that the USS New York “will remain in port until it is safe to get underway.”

The Gunston Hall and the New York were part of a group led by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima that left the US in October 2018, carrying some 4,000 sailors and Marines.

That group carried out a simulated air assault in Iceland and has been doing cold-weather training in preparation for Trident Juncture.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit hike to a cold-weather training site in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo)

It’s not clear if the absence of the Gunston Hall and the New York will affect the exercise, the 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times.

Trident Juncture will include some 50,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and other personnel from each of NATO’s 29 members as well as Sweden and Finland. The drills will be spread across Scandinavia and the waters and airspace of the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic.

Massing men and machines for such exercises rarely goes off without problems.

In June 2018, as some 18,000 personnel from 18 countries took part in the Saber Strike 18 exercise in Eastern Europe, four US Army Stryker armored vehicles collided during a road march in southern Lithuania.

Fifteen soldiers were taken to a local hospital, 10 of whom were held for overnight observation, but all returned to duty.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These Marines fought so fiercely, they burned out two Howitzers

US Marines arrived in Syria in March to support the effort to retake Raqqa with artillery fire.


The Marines, from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, came with M-777 Howitzers that can fire powerful 155 mm shells. The 11th MEU returned to the US in May, turning the operations over to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said they recaptured the city in mid-October, and, according to Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the Marine fire supporting them was so intense that the barrels on two of the Howitzers burned out, making them unsafe to use.

Troxell, who is senior enlisted adviser to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, said last week that US-led coalition forces were firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep pressure on the terrorist group.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
A U.S. Marine artillery unit in Syria. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

“What we have seen is the minute we take the pressure off of ISIS they regenerate and come back in a hurry,” Troxell said, according to Military Times. “They are a very resilient enemy.”

The M-777 Howitzer is 7,500 pounds — 9,000 pounds lighter than its predecessor. It is highly maneuverable, and can be towed by 7-ton trucks or carried by MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft or by CH-53E Super Stallion or CH-47 Chinook helicopters. It can be put in place and readied to fire in less than three minutes.

Also Read: The American howitzer you never heard much about

Its sustained rate of fire is two rounds a minute, but it can fire four rounds a minute for up to two minutes, according to its manufacturer, BAE Systems. While it’s not clear how many rounds the Marine M-777s fired or the period over which they fired them, burning out two barrels underscores the intensity of the bombardment used against ISIS in and around Raqqa.

“I’ve never heard of it ― normally your gun goes back to depot for full reset well before that happens,” a former Army artillery officer told Military Times. “That’s a s—load of rounds though.”

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
A US Marine fires an M-777A2 Howitzer in Syria, June 1, 2017. Sgt. Matthew Callahan/US Marine Corps

The M-777’s maximum range is 18.6 miles (though it can fire Excalibur rounds accurately up to 25 miles, according to Military.com). Video that emerged this summer showed Marines firing 155 mm artillery shells with XM1156 Precision Guidance Kits, according to The Washington Post.

The kit is a type of fuse that turns the shell in to a semi-precision-guided munition that, on average, will hit within 100 feet of the target when fired from the M-777’s maximum range. The XM1156 has only appeared in combat a few times.

The number of rounds it takes to burn out a howitzer barrel depends on the range to the target as well as the level of charge used, which can vary based on weight of the shell and the distance it needs to be fired.

If the howitzers were being fired closer to their target, “the tube life might actually be extended some,” the former Army officer told Military Times. Open-source imagery reviewed this summer indicated that Marines were at one point within 10 miles of Raqqa.

Veterans

The Mother Teresa of recreation therapy has retired


Joyce Casey is all smiles while trying out adaptive skis at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

recreation therapy

Mom. Big sister. Teacher. Therapist. Psychologist. Friend.

Those are some of the ways Milwaukee VA recreation therapist Joyce Casey has been described.

But Dr. Ken Lee, head of the Spinal Cord Injury Center, probably had the best description: “She’s the Mother Teresa of recreation therapy,” Lee said.

But Mother Teresa has retired.

Casey, 62, who has been at the Milwaukee VA for 15 years, called it quits Feb. 26. The 62-year-old and her husband are set to become Wisconsin snowbirds starting in March.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “It’s like a family here, and I’ll miss Veterans and all the fun times we had.”

Casey broke a lot of ground at the Milwaukee VA, gaining national prominence in the push to get paralyzed Veterans up and moving through adaptive sports. She pushed them to try just about everything, from fishing to downhill skiing.

And the Veterans are glad she did.

“She’s the greatest recreation therapist I’ve met,” said Noah Currier, the founder of OscarMike, the Veteran apparel company that supports adaptive sports.

“Over a decade of being involved in the VA system and wheelchair games, I’ve met recreation therapists all over the country,” he said. “Everyone knows Joyce, and her team always does the best.”

Currier’s story – injured in a freak truck accident in the U.S. after surviving the first forays of the Gulf War, he was on the verge of suicide before discovering adaptive sports  – shows how Casey set him and many other bitter and despondent paralyzed Veterans on the road to a better life.

Joyce Casey helps a Veteran outside the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA.

“I might have been a young punk when I met her, and she did a great job of dealing with me,” Currier said. “She struck that perfect balance of patience and impatience, making me accountable and also making me excited to do things in adaptive sports.

“I’m a totally different person now. When I met her, I wasn’t involved in adaptive sports at all, and now I run an organization devoted to it. She connected me with a great group of people to help push me along the way.”

“She has touched so many Veterans’ lives,” said Erinn Kulba, a fellow recreation therapist in SCI. “You can see Veterans light up when they are around her. She’s the reason they have the ability to maintain the quality of life they want.”

Casey knew early on that helping people was one of her strong points.

During school, she spent summers working at a swimming pool where she taught swim lessons to kids and adults who had a fear of water or other problems.

“She’s been like a mom to me. She takes you under her wing, and she gets you to feel like you’re a normal person, and you learn to do things differently.”

— Veteran Randy Riek

“I would always take the heavy hitters. That didn’t bother me,” she said.

One of her jobs at the camp was providing leisure-time programming for the campers, which included organizing a talent show.

“It was just really cool,” she said. “One thing just kind of led to another, and rec therapy just seemed like a good fit.”

That led her to the University of Iowa and its recreation therapy program. While in college, she spent time in a program that helped children and young adults with self-care and also assisted at a camp for boys who stuttered.

She interned in Omaha, Neb., and worked at a number of hospitals in Nebraska, Texas and Virginia before coming to Milwaukee in 2006.

At that time, SCI was on the 10th floor of the hospital, which was not ideal.

“I hated it,” she said. “I was just dropped off on the 10th floor and had to figure it out. I didn’t even know what a handcycle was.”

But by talking with Veterans and corresponding with other recreation therapists across the country, she soon figured it out.

recreation therapy
Joyce Casey walks with a Veteran in the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center.

BraveHearts, a therapeutic horse-riding program, was her first foray for the Veterans, but others soon followed, including Guitars 4 Vets and Team River Runner.

Before long, Casey’s Veterans were involved in all manner of adaptive sports.

Those involved became a team, and the positive reactions reverberated through the community of paralyzed Vets. As more Vets became involved, they encouraged others. The outings became commonplace.

“There was a big influx (of paralyzed Veterans) at the time, from the Iraq and Afghanistan generation, and we were a difficult group to deal with,” Currier said. “She did a great job. She was more like a friend. We all looked up to her, and the way she dealt with us was pretty spectacular.”

Fellow Veteran Terrence “T-Bone” Green agreed.

“You have to have good communication skills with the guys, and she would talk to you like a big sister, a mom, a friend – sometimes a psychologist,” he said. “She knew how to talk with people.”

“She’s been like a mom to me,” said Veteran Randy Riek. “She takes you under her wing, and she gets you to feel like you’re a normal person, and you learn to do things differently.”

Blazing a trail

Casey found a kindred spirit in Lee, also a believer in adaptive sports.

“We clicked from the very get-go,” he said. “She could read my mind. Whatever needed to be done, she got it done, and it was done right.

“The Vets really benefited from her, and she started a lot of stuff at the national level. She started a movement.”

“When I think about how this program really took off, I feel like the stars were aligned,” Casey said. “Dr. Lee was very supportive and very instrumental.”

Before long, a new facility was built for SCI, which gave the recreation therapy program more resources in addition to the groups and organizations Casey connected with in the community.

“My job was just connecting the dots between the Veterans, the community and whatever that Veteran liked to do, whether it was golf, fishing or trapshooting,” she said.

Those outpatient programs blended with the work other therapists do with inpatients, because the goal of therapy is to get patients out of the hospital and back in their homes.

But keeping the Veterans active once the return home is key, Casey said.

“A big part of what we do is seeing that rehab process out in the community, so that when they get discharged, they get involved in some sort of activity, rather than go home and put on weight or make some unhealthy lifestyle choices,” she said.

Making the hard look easy

Recreation therapy is easily misunderstood, Casey said, because it looks like people out having fun. But the outings require meticulous planning, help from volunteers, and a variety of special equipment and transportation.

In addition to the logistics, the therapists have to meet the physical and mental needs of the Veterans, many of whom are doing something well outside their comfort zone.

“She has brought such awareness to spinal cord and adaptive sports. Everyone knows her as being the therapist who gets Vets up and on the move after their injuries.”

— Milwaukee VA Recreation Therapist Erinn Kulba

“You really need to know your equipment and the level of injury of your Veterans because you want to set them up to have a successful experience,” she said.

“There’s a learning curve for the Veterans… but when they get it figured out, it’s amazing. That spark comes back, and they find that little flame in their soul to pursue something that gives them enjoyment… It’s priceless.”

Kulba said Casey has taken scores of interns under her wing, and many have flourished as recreation therapists. In fact Casey is the reason Kulba became a recreation therapist.

“I volunteered in SCI 11 years ago, and after meeting the team, I decided to pursue my master’s so I could do what she does,” Kulba said.

“She has brought such awareness to spinal cord and adaptive sports. Everyone knows her as being the therapist who gets Vets up and on the move after their injuries.”

Sidelined

The COVID-19 pandemic effectively quashed all the outings the adaptive sports Veterans enjoy.

It hurt Casey as well – being cooped up in a building is not her strong suit. And she admitted the past year helped push her toward retirement.

“I can’t just sit around. I can’t,” she said. “We’ve done some virtual stuff… but it’s not the same.”

Riek agreed.

“It’s been so hard to not be able to come in and do things,” he said. “We used to tie flies, do woodworking, play bocce ball, go bowling.”

That programming will come back eventually, but Casey said the restart may be difficult.

“It’s going to take quite a bit of work, energy and creativity,” she said. “It’s doable, but it will be different, and it will take some time.”

Kulba lauded Casey for being innovative during the lockdown, using virtual interactions to keep Veterans engaged.

And she said the groundwork Casey has laid will endure.

“That will carry on well beyond my years and anyone else’s,” she said. “She has established such a strong, strong program.”

If the Veterans had their way, Casey wouldn’t be going anywhere.

“We’re going to kidnap her and chain her to the deck,” Green joked. “If they can clone her, then it’s fine. But she will leave some really big shoes to fill – bigger than Shaq’s.

“She’s a saint. Joyce is the pin that holds everything together. It hurts that she’s leaving. The bottom line is you cannot replace Joyce.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Currier said. “I’m happy she gets to retire, but nobody can replace her.”

Her colleagues feel the same.

“I’m so sad to see her go,” Lee said. “She is truly the heartbeat of recreation therapy.”

To view a slideshow tribute to Casey, click here.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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The mystery of the French Foreign Legion totally exposed

In 1831, King Louis Philippe of France expanded his country’s military by establishing a service branch made up of mostly foreigners: the French Foreign Legion. Immediately after its creation, the Foreign Legion recruited fighters from Switzerland, Germany, and other countries to protect and expand the French colonial empire. Despite the Foreign Legion’s involvement in most of France’s wars since being established, the French don’t get too bummed about their losses. Let’s just say it’s complicated.

Music licensed by Jingle Punks
 

Read more: 

French Foreign Legion website

• 5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

• Stereotypes aside, the French know how to finish a fight

• The 7 most bizarre foreign military uniforms

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This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

Airborne forces face a problem whenever they have to jump behind enemy lines — whether it’s to seize an enemy airfield or to take and hold territory.


The paratroopers can’t bring their own armor support, because America doesn’t currently have an airborne-certified tank or large armored vehicle. (The Stryker and the Light Armored Vehicle have undergone successful airdrop tests, but neither has been certified).

But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
The M551 Sheridan tank was a 16-ton tank made primarily of aluminum and employed by airborne forces. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.

The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
An M551 Sheridan is pulled from the back of a C-130 by the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Sheridan was crewed by four people and weighed 16 tons, light enough that it could actually swim through the water. It was powered by a 300-hp diesel engine and could hit approximately 45 mph. It could travel 373 miles between fill-ups.

The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.

The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.

Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
The M551 Sheridan could be airdropped from Air Force cargo planes. Crew would follow it to the ground and get the tank up and running. (GIF: YouTube/Strength through Humility)

Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.

The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.

By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez
The M60 Patton, which is still in service with allied nations today, was seen as more reliable and powerful than the M551. (GIF: YouTube/arronlee33)

According to an Army history pamphlet, one cavalryman told the Stars and Stripes, “We can get the job done with the Sheridan, but most cavalrymen would rather have the tank.”

The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.

The Army is, once again, looking at new light tanks or heavy-armored vehicles to support paratroopers. The new solution could be another custom-built tank, like the Sheridan. But as of summer 2016, its specifications were up in the air. It just has to be capable of an airdrop, and it has to get the job done.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon: ISIS could return within months of Syria withdrawal

President Donald Trump has declared his intention to reduce U.S. military engagement in Syria, but a new Pentagon report warned that the extremist group Islamic State could then make a comeback in the war-torn country within six to 12 months and “regain limited territory.”

The report issued on Feb. 4, 2019, by the Defense Department’s Inspector General warned that the IS group continues to attract dozens of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq each month, and maintains a flow of external donations.


IS is “regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria,” it also said.

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

In both countries, the Inspector General said, local forces remain heavily reliant on support from the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the IS group.

Trump surprised U.S. lawmakers and international allies in January 2019 by announcing he was withdrawing all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

Critics have said that a vacuum left by the departure of U.S. troops from Syria, where they are assisting a Syrian Arab and Kurdish alliance fighting against some of the last IS-held areas and other forces, could result in a resurgence of the IS and Al-Qaeda in the country or neighboring Iraq.

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

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Navy has a message for Notre Dame ahead of Saturday’s game

As Navy and Notre Dame get ready to face off this weekend, the Youtube channel behind “Air Force Training at Navy” has come out with a video reminding Notre Dame who saved their butts in World War II, financially and militarily.


It may not intimidate the Fighting Irish who have won 75 of their 88 games against the Midshipmen. But, a similar video preceded the Air Force-Navy game where Navy won big, so maybe this spirit video will work again. Check it out below:

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