America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler was killed by an Islamic State booby trap in eastern Afghanistan Aug.16.


Butler was on a mission to clear a building on a partnered mission with the Afghan National Security Forces when his unit was struck. Eleven other members of the Utah National Guard were wounded in the incident but are expected to survive. Butler joined the Utah National Guard in 2008 and went on a Mormon mission trip to Africa as a young man.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Butler was on a mission with Utah National Guard troops during a raid. (US Army photo)

“He was an absolute force of nature,” his family spokesman told local Utah media. “Ultimately, what we do is very dangerous business,” his commander Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken when we lose one of our own. We know these people personally, they are our friends, we respect them and it’s very painful.”

Butler is the 10th U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2017, many of whom were killed in the same geographical region fighting the terrorist group. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

A third of the Thai boys soccer team want to be Navy SEALs now

Four members of the Thai soccer team that survived being trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks now want to be Navy SEALS.

Three boys, and the team coach, said they now aspired to the join the SEALs, whose divers swam into the cave and helped get all 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach out alive.


Asked during a press conference on July 18, 2018, about his future plans, the 14-year-old goalkeeper Ekarat Wongsukchan said: “I still want to pursue my dream to be a professional soccer player, but there might be a new dream, which is to become part of the Navy SEALs.”

Wongsukchan and three other members of the team — including the coach, Ekapol Chantawong — then raised their hand when asked how many of them wanted to be Navy SEALs.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

Members of the rescued Thai soccer team, including some who want to be Thai Navy SEALs.

(Channel News Asia)

It was met with applause from the SEALs onstage at the conference as well as many members of the audience.

Six other members of the team also said they hoped to one day be professional soccer players.

Rescuers found the team huddled on a dry ledge in the partially flooded cave complex after nine days of searches.

Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor stayed with the boys over the ensuing week until they were extracted one by one as part of a three-day mission that ended July 9, 2018.

Sanam Kunam, a former SEAL who volunteered to help, died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave.

The team paid condolences to Kunam toward the end of the conference while holding a portrait of the diver with personal messages written around it.

Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, the youngest of the team, said in his message:

“I would like to thank both Lt. Saman and everyone involved in this. I hope that Lt. Saman has a good sleep and I hope that he rests in peace.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Updated: AWOL female engineer has turned herself in

Update: Pvt. Erika Lopez turned herself in to Army authorities Feb. 4 after reports of her desertion went viral. The Army will now decide whether to charge her with a crime, administratively separate her from the service, or allow her to continue training. The original post on Lopez’s disappearance is below:


According to reports from Tennessee news channels, the first woman to enlist as a combat engineer from that state has gone absent without leave and has been gone for over 30 days, meaning she is now technically a deserter.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Youtube/Election2016

Erika Lopez enlisted in July of 2015 to much fanfare as the Army was first opening the combat engineer military occupational specialty to women.

She went on convalescent leave from basic training and was scheduled to return Jan. 4. Once she failed to appear, she was listed as AWOL. After 30 days, an AWOL soldier’s status is changed to deserter unless there is evidence that something has happened to the soldier or that he or she is confined.

The Army has been unable to locate Lopez despite numerous attempts. It’s one of the few situations where the most desirable scenario is that a soldier deserted, since the alternative is that something has happened to her.

While there have been reports listing Lopez as the Army’s first female combat engineer, that title actually goes to Vermont National Guard Spc. Skylar Anderson who graduated the combat engineer course in December and continues to serve in Vermont. Lopez was actually the fourth woman to enlist as a combat engineer.

Similarly, Lopez has been described as the first woman to become a combat arms soldier. The term “combat arms” was rescinded in 2008 with an updated version of Army Field Manual 3-0, but the first female combat arms soldiers were those who enlisted into air defense MOSs in the early 1990s.* Combat engineers were a combat arms MOS when that term was in use.

*Updated Feb. 5, 2016: This paragraph originally stated that combat engineer was not technically a combat arms specialty. When “combat arms” was a doctrinal term, Army Engineering was a combat arms branch.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force Special Operations is preparing for a major power war

Attacking enemy fighters in close-air-support aircraft, using ground-based laser designators to “paint” targets for aircraft, and training friendly forces for the rigors of high-casualty close-in combat are all US Air Force Special Operations Force skills tested and refined during the last decade and a half of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Drawing upon these Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), Air Force Special Operations Command is accelerating a strategic shift from its recent counterinsurgency focus to preparing for “high-end” combat or major force-on-force warfare against a technologically advanced enemy.

“I would tell you there is definitely strategic value for Special Operations in the high-end fight. With our mentality, we think outside of the box and about how to present dilemmas for the enemy,” Lt. Gen Marshall Webb, said Sept. 17, 2018, at the Air Force Association Convention.


Webb emphasized that the Command’s counterterrorism focus will not diminish in coming years but likely increase as existing threats persist and new ones emerge. At the same time, he made it clear that AFSOC is “laser focused on the high-end” and currently adapting its well-established TTPs to support major power warfare.

“We have to extend the TTPs for high-end conflict as well, including multi-domain command and control,” Webb said.

Interestingly, migrating combat-tested TTPs to a high-end fight does not seem to be an insurmountable stretch but, rather, an extension of refined combat practices. Significantly, many TTPs fundamental to counterinsurgency are also of great tactical and strategic relevance to major-power warfare. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Air Force Special Operations, the Special Tactics Squadron, used advanced targeting techniques to guide aircraft attacking the Taliban. This included using Forward Air Controllers to radio strike coordinates to circling attack aircraft and using laser designators to paint ground targets.

AFSOC contributions to the war in Afghanistan are highlighted in a 2017 Special Operations Annex portion of Air Force Doctrine published by the Lemay Center for Doctrine, Maxwell AFB.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

An AC-130U gunship.

“AFSOC CCTs were instrumental in the first major gain of the conflict, leveraging airpower that led to the capture of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 9, 2001 — a major breakthrough in the struggle to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” the doctrine writes.

This kind of integrated air-ground operation, used to great effect in Afghanistan, is also something of potentially great value in a high-end conflict as well. The prospect of needing close air support to fortify advancing units on the ground or attacking low-flying enemy air assets presents the kinds of scenarios anticipated in major war.

The Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship, for instance, often circled Kandahar in Afghanistan, to fire its 105mm side-firing cannons to attack Taliban fighters. While there are of course major differences when between attacking insurgents and engaging in major air combat with a near-peer enemy, some of the tactics, approaches and technologies do seem to cross over and offer value to both kinds of conflict.

Webb further elaborated upon AFSOCs role in close air support missions will be enhanced by the service’s emerging Light Attack Aircraft. The aircraft is designed for rugged counterinsurgency missions in combat environments where the Air Force has established air superiority. At the same time, the need for these kinds of attack missions are at very least conceivable, if not likely, in large-scale warfare also.

“The need for the Light Attack Aircraft is an excellent requirement for AFSOC,” Webb said.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are also known for a substantial intelligence expertise, used to both train and equip friendly forces and offer crucial combat-relevant detail to the larger force. Advising allied fighters is yet another instance of skills likely to be of great value in major war. Part of this intel mission includes air and ground reconnaissance using sensors, scouting forces and unique positioning in combat terrain in support of the larger fight.

Operating in small units, often somewhat autonomously, SOF are experienced fighters in austere, or otherwise hard to reach, combat areas. This skill also, quite naturally, would add value in major force-on-force warfare, as well.

SOF is “out there in the hinterlands and don’t have the luxury of an F-16,” Webb explained.

The Air Force’s Curtis Lemay Center for Doctrine, Development and Education also cites the full range of Special Operations mission sets, many of which are specifically designed for large scale war. Combat areas listed in the Doctrine text include a range of missions relevant to both COIN and major war such as “information operations, precision strike, ISR, command and control and specialized air mobility.”

The overall strategic roadmap, such as that articulated by Webb, mirrors multi-domain concepts written into special ops doctrine materials. The Lemay Center’s 2017 Doctrine Special Ops Annex text identifies a “combat continuum” for Special Ops missions, to include low-intensity conflict such as security cooperation and deterrence, limited contingencies and major operations.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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UK scrambles fighters in response to nearby Russian nuclear-capable bombers

The Royal Air Force had to scramble Typhoon fighter jets in response to nearby Russian nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers on Thursday.


The bombers came from the North East past Ireland, ITV News reports. A UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson told ITV “at no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.”

However, some of the Tu-160 bombers carry long-range nuclear capable cruise missiles which can pose a threat to the UK even outside of its own airspace. It is not clear right now which Tu-160 variants were intercepted.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Russian Tu-160 bombers fly in formation. | Flickr

Russia has recently been holding snap air force exercises, with a directive from Russian President Vladimir Putin himself apparently instructing the force to prepare for a “time of war.”

Russian planes frequently skirt or breach NATO and US allies’ air spaces. When detected, the standard operating procedure for most countries dictates scrambling jets to intercept the intruders.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tyndall F-22s will be appraised by Lockheed engineers

The F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets left behind at Tyndall Air Base when Hurricane Michael damaged or destroyed virtually every building on site will be visited by structural engineers from Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor tweeted.

Tyndall Air Base serves as a critical training and maintenance ground for about 50 F-22s, or nearly a third of all of the world’s most capable air superiority jets near Panama City, Florida, Dallas News, who first reported the story, said.

Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall with unexpected force and sooner than expected, and the Air Force left some of the jets, which cost in the hundreds of millions apiece, behind in the base’s most hardened hangars.


But the storm proved historically powerful, and images of the aftermath show the hangars torn open. Initial assessments said that up to 17 of the planes had been destroyed, but top US Air Force officials later visited the base and said the damage wasn’t as bad as first thought.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., taxi after landing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio for safe haven.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

While the Air Force still won’t share how many F-22s were left behind, or how bad they were damaged by the storm, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sounded hopeful on Oct. 16, 2018.

“I’m not ready to say it can all be fixed, but our initial review was perhaps more positive than I anticipated … in light of the amount of damage,” Mattis said, as the Air Force Times notes.

The Air Force did manage to relocate a number of air-worthy F-22s before the storm, and they’ve returned to training stealth pilots in the world’s most capable combat plane. The limited run of F-22s, their stealth shaping and coating, and rare parts make repairing them a costly endeavor.

But with Tyndall all but wiped off the map by Michael, it remains unclear when the US’s top fighter jet will get back on track.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was blotted out by a US airstrike on June 7, 2006, he made an impression, especially on Stanley McChrystal, who, as a lieutenant general in charge of US Joint Special Operations Command, led the effort to take out the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi’s zealotry made him a lodestar for an extremist movement that still roils Iraq and the region, McChrystal said on a recent episode of Business Insider’s “This Is Success” podcast.


“For about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth,” said McChrystal, who profiled al-Zarqawi in his most recent book, “Leaders.”

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

(Portfolio)

“But then, what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs — if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot — other people were attracted to him,” McChrystal added. “He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do.”

Arriving in Iraq in 2003 to lead a US Joint Special Operations Task Force, McChrystal recognized the strengths of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the mismatch the group presented for the US military’s traditional conception of its enemies.

“By habit, we started mapping the organization in a traditional military structure, with tiers and rows. At the top was Zarqawi, below him a cascade of lieutenants and foot soldiers,” McChrystal wrote in 2011, a year after retiring. “But the closer we looked, the more the model didn’t hold.”

AQI’s network was characterized by the free flow of information and resources.

Tactics changed quickly across broad swaths of Iraq. It became clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq was less a hierarchical fighting network than “a constellation of fighters” organized by relationships and reputations.

At the center was al-Zarqawi.

“When he became the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way. He wore all black [and] looked like a terrorist leader,” McChrystal told Business Insider correspondent Richard Feloni.

In 2004, al-Zarqawi beheaded American contractor Nicholas Berg, McChrystal said.

That was “a gruesome thing to do,” he added, but it served as a message that “‘our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific.'”

“He was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam when most of them really didn’t,” McChrystal said. “The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to Al Qaeda, but yet he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.”

In summer 2005, McChrystal was recalled to the White House to brief the National Security Council on al-Zarqawi.

“Are you going to get him?” President George W. Bush asked McChrystal.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

President George W. Bush.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

“We will, Mr. President,” McChrystal replied. “There is no doubt in my mind.”

As US forces whittled away the middle ranks of al-Zarqawi’s organization, which he had built into semiautonomous cells, the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader was seeking to ignite a sectarian war, stoking violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

By spring 2006, al-Zarqawi was a bigger priority for JSOC than Al Qaeda cofounders Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the latter of whom is still alive.

By May that year, JSOC had mapped out al-Zarqawi’s organization around Baghdad, including his spiritual adviser, with whom he met frequently.

On June 7, 2006, a drone tracked the adviser to a house in Hibhib, a village roughly 12 miles from McChrystal’s own headquarters, where US personnel watched intently as a man dressed black walked out and strolled through the driveway.

Just after 6 p.m., an F-16 dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on the house, following it with another less than two minutes later.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

Less than 20 minutes after that, US Army Delta Force operators arrived at the demolished house to find Iraqi police loading a still-alive al-Zarqawi into an ambulance. They watched him die.

“We didn’t just depose him. We killed him,” McChrystal told Feloni. “I stood over his body right after we killed him.”

McChrystal expressed no admiration for al-Zarqawi’s methods — “in many ways, he was a psychopath,” he said — but he acknowledged al-Zarqawi’s strengths as a leader.

“Your first desire is to demonize him, but you know the reality is I had to respect him. He led very effectively,” McChrystal said.

“Initially you just say we’re just going to get this guy, and then after a while you watch him lead, and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent, he’s making me better, [and] you’re also going after someone who truly believes,” he added.

McChrystal held his position in Iraq until 2008 and was credited with making JSOC more agile and more lethal, evincing “an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists” and pushing his command to kill as many of them as possible.

He took over command of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2009, but his tenure was short-lived.

He resigned in the summer of 2010, after the publication of a Rolling Stone article in which his aides were quoted disparaging US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

Vice President Joe Biden.

The killing of al-Zarqawi looms large among McChrystal’s accomplishments, though he said that operation was reflective of how he learned to decentralize responsibility rather than indicative of his martial prowess.

“The myth is the counterterrorist who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — went out, wrestled him to the ground, bare to the waist, and that’s total BS,” McChrystal told Feloni, when asked how he would describe his own biography.

“At times, do I like the myth, because people go, ‘Wow, look at him’?” he said. “Yeah, it’s kind of cool, and you never want to go, ‘no, that’s not true.’ But it’s not true.”

“The reality is that I built the team” that took out al-Zarqawi, he added. “Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team than I would be of wrestling [al-Zarqawi] to his death.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will pay his respects at a war memorial in Darwin, the Australian city devastated by Japanese bombing in 1942, in the first formal visit from a Japanese leader to Darwin since during World War II.

Abe is expected to visit the Darwin Cenotaph, a monument to the country’s servicemen, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a historic and symbolic meeting.

It will be the leaders’ first meeting since the Australian PM unexpectedly took office in August 2018.


Abe also plans to take a look at Japan’s biggest ever foreign investment, the gigantic $U40 billion Ichthys gas project, which began shipping LNG in October 2018.

Abe is expected to cement ties with Australia by promoting Tokyo’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” policy, touted to “promote stability and prosperity in areas between Asia and Africa rooted in rule-based order and freedom of navigation,” as well as reconfirm cooperation in maritime security, Japanese government sources told The Japan Times.

During his visit Abe will visit a memorial erected in 2017 to commemorate 80 seamen killed about a month before the infamous bombing of Darwin in February 1942.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

The explosion of a ship, filled with TNT and ammunition, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Australia’s mainland, at Darwin on Feb. 19, 1942.

Allied forces sank one of four Japanese submarines that tried to attack the northern town, according to The Australian newspaper

The I-124 submarine now lies on the seabed off Darwin. It is ­thought to be intact and undisturbed.

Abe goes to Canberra

Abe’s visit to Australia, and his hectic Asian Pacific schedule is widely viewed by analysts as a counter to Beijing’s growing influence across the Indo-Pacific.

The show of postwar reconciliation and the tightening of strategic bonds will strengthen Canberra and Tokyo’s economic and defense ties at a time when China is asserting its role in the region and US engagement in Asia under the Trump administration is less certain, the Times noted.

Japan and Australia normalized ties in 1957, with the signing of the “Agreement on Commerce”, just 12 years after the end of World War II.

The deal was controversial at the time as many Australians said Canberra had moved too quickly to sign a formal agreement with its regional adversary and the only nation to attempt to invade modern Australia, Japan.

Today that agreement is widely seen as a critical turning point in Australia’s engagement with its own backyard and Asia as a whole.

Abe’s visit comes almost two years after the Japanese prime minister made a similar significant visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 2016.

Pearl Harbour was the site of the 1941 attack by Japan that brought the US roaring into the second world war, and prompted then President Franklin Roosevelt to name Dec. 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy.”

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress on December 8, 1941.

On that day, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,300.

Yet the bombing attack on Darwin was even more brutal than Pearl Harbor.

More bombs were dropped on Darwin, more civilians killed, and more ships sunk.

Japan’s sudden and ferocious campaign finally brought a distant war home for Australians and Darwin became the frontline.

It was the largest and most destructive single attack mounted by a foreign power on Australia and led to the worst death toll from any event in the nation’s history.

More than 240 people were killed by the air raid in the former stronghold of Allied forces. Darwin later endured dozens more Japanese air attacks.

The visits reflect Abe’s intention for a postwar Japan to shore up regional ties with allies like the US and Australia.

Japan faces both military and economic challenges as a growing China flexes its regional muscle and poses more of a strategic question for Japan’s key ally, the US.

While Japan expressed biter disappointment that France beat it to lucrative contracts for Australia’s multi-billion dollar revamp of its ailing submarine fleets the two nations have moved closer to signing off on the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) — which would effectively allow Australian and Japanese forces to move freely in and out of either territory.

Japan is also likely to be pleased with prime minister Morrison’s “Pacific pivot” speech on Nov. 9, 2018, committing some billion to support infrastructure projects around the region — largely in line with Japanese intentions to diversify sources of investment in the region away from China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Abe’s visit will be bookended by Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related meetings in Singapore and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Papua New Guinea.

All after meeting with the US vice president Mike Pence who arrived in Japan Monday evening Tokyo time, as the two held brief talks Tuesday before traveling onto Singapore and then to Australia.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans Affairs chaplain addresses holiday stress in sermon

Excerpts from a sermon by Chaplain Jonathan Landon, Eugene VA Health Care Center.

I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.

I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.

Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.


  • The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
  • Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
  • Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
  • Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
  • Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.

Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.

I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

Chaplain Jonathan Landon.

We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.

I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.

You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.

But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.

In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.

It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?

The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.

Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
An Italian paratrooper prepares for a static line jump in a US Air Force C-130J during exercise Swift Response 16. | Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force


Staging aircraft carriers offshore or using drones from far away can be great assets in modern warfare. However, sometimes it’s necessary to go back to the basics when responding to a global crisis.

Exercise Swift Response 16, a month-long operation led by US forces, was conducted to keep up with traditional and newer methods of combat. Over 5,000 troops from nations such as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy took part in this massive airborne exercise to conduct a rapid-response, joint forcible-entry scenario. While working with their European allies, US forces also participated in notable scenarios, such as staging a base within 18 hours of notification.

Here are several pictures of the multinational airborne exercise:

US Army and Italian paratroopers board a US Air Force C-130J Hercules during exercise Swift Response 16, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off for Germany within several hours’ worth of notice.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford/US Air Force

British paratroopers conduct a static-line jump.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

Dutch Army paratroopers jump into Bunker Drop Zone at Grafenwoehr, Germany.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger/US Army

A US paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division lands with his parachute.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach/US Army

A French soldier watches soldiers descend from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

US soldiers locate a target on a map.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

Multinational soldiers move toward their target.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Multinational soldiers cut through the foliage.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Soldiers weren’t the only ones dropped from the sky. Here, a US soldier prepares to untie a vehicle that had landed in the drop zone.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A US paratrooper radios higher command while conducting defensive operations.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

A Polish soldier provides security while conducting defensive planning operations.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

Airplanes weren’t the only machines dominating the skies. Here, a United Kingdom Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma conducts an aerial-reconnaissance training mission.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

A British Parachute Regiment soldier prepares to load a helicopter while conducting a simulated medical evacuation.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army

In any real-life war scenario, bridges will be critical to both defensive and offensive forces. Here, military tactical vehicles prepare to engage their targets.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A Polish soldier reloads his weapon while securing a bridge.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Bridges will be fought for, from above and below.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A British soldier provides security while conducting medical-evacuation simulations.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Nathaniel Nichols/US Army

The US wasn’t the only country that brought out their toys. Here, German Bundeswehr soldiers provide security while conducting a mounted patrol.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Allen/US Army

A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy tank.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez/US Army

A US soldier from the legendary 82nd Airborne Division readies a 60 mm mortar system for a simulated-fire mission.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

US soldiers of Chaos Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division prepare to move out with their Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicles.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

Lists

15 Modern Photos Of Pin-Up Girls Taken In Support Of US Troops

Pin-Ups For Vets is an organization that supports hospitalized veterans and deployed troops through nostalgic pin-up calendars.


The organization was founded by Gina Elise in 2006 after learning about under-funded veteran healthcare programs and lonely service members. Inspired by her grandfather who served during World War II and the pin-up girls of that era, Pin-Up For Vets was born. The calendars are:

  • used to raise funds for hospitalized veterans.
  • delivered as gifts to ill and injured veterans with messages of appreciation from the donors.
  • sent to deployed troops to help boost moral and to let them know that Americans back home are thinking of them.

Since starting the organization she’s crisscrossed the country to deliver gifts to hospitalized veterans at their bedsides and mailed hundreds more. Pin-Ups For Vets also ships care packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Proceeds from the organization are used to carry out its various veteran and troop initiatives.

Her latest project, the 2nd annual Salute and Shimmy World War II style fundraiser takes place Saturday, January 17th in Hollywood, CA. The event will feature burlesque acts, music, and more. RSVP here to attend.

In the meantime, here are 15 awesome photos from the Pin-Ups For Vets collection:

Gina Elise as a pin-up on a motorcycle…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Marine veteran Jovane Henrey as a runway pin-up…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pinups For Vets

Gina Elise prepping her bath tub…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Julia Reed Nichols in a two-piece…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise as a pin-up at the bowling alley…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Navy veteran Jennifer Hope in a purple dress…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise in a one-piece at the beach…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall in a green and black polka dot dress…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise at the train stop…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Navy veteran Shannon Stacy in a polka dot dress…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Librarian Gina in a stunning green dress…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise as a bomber pin-up in a one-piece…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Playful Gina in a flowered outfit…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Blond bombshell Gina in a red one-piece…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise next to a red prop airplane…

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

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Articles

China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the US in the South China Sea

China has made excellent progress developing its second aircraft carrier, and Chinese state-run media says it could start patrolling the South China Sea by 2019.


The South China Morning Post, based on a scan of Chinese state media reports, states that the carrier was “taking shape.”

“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” said Chinese media.

The “complicated situation” the media report referred to stems from Beijing’s claims to about 85% of the South China Sea, which sees $5 trillion in trade annually. China has developed a network of artificially built, militarized islands in the region, and at times has unilaterally declared “no fly” or “no sail” zones.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
China’s second aircraft carrier is making steady progress. | Chinese state media

In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration ruled these claims illegal, and the Trump administration has promised to put a stop to China’s aggressive, unlawful behavior.

But that’s easier said than done, and a designated aircraft carrier in the region could help cement China’s claims.

China’s second carrier, likely to be named the “Shangdong” after a Chinese port city, will resemble the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, which itself is a refurbished Soviet model.

China’s carriers, like Russia’s sole carrier the Admiral Kuznetzov, feature a ski-slope design. US models, on the other hand, use catapults, or devices that forcefully launch the planes off the ship. Ski-slope style carriers can’t launch the heavy bomb-and-fuel-laden planes that US carriers can, so their efficacy and range are severely limited.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

But Taylor Mavin, a UC San Diego graduate student in international affairs, notes for Smoke and Stir that these smaller, Soviet-designed carriers were built with the idea of coastal defense, not seaborne power projection, being the main goal:

“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.

China’s navy has undergone rapid modernization in the last few years with particular emphasis on fielding submarines. So while a Chinese carrier couldn’t travel to say, Libya, and project power like a US carrier could, it might just be custom made for the South China Sea.

But don’t expect the world’s most populous nation to stop at two carriers. A recent report from Defense News states that satellite imagery from China shows the nation developing catapults to possibly field on a US-style carrier.

Taken in concert with China’s other efforts to create anti-access/area-denial technology like extremely long-range missiles, the US will have to have its work cut out for it in trying to offer any meaningful counter to China’s expansionism in the Pacific.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 can make China’s carrier killer missiles ‘irrelevant’

As China builds out its network of militarized islands in the South China Sea and expands a sphere of influence designed to keep the U.S. out, the U.S. Marine Corps is putting the finishing touches on a weapon to burst its bubble: the F-35B.


China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has turned out a massive number of so-called carrier-killer missiles, ballistic missiles that can target ships up to about 800 miles out at sea, even testing them against models of U.S. aircraft carriers.

With the U.S. Navy’s longest-range platform — aircraft carriers — maxing out at a range of about 550 miles, this means China could theoretically use the missiles to shut the U.S. out of a battle for the South China Sea.

But theories and lines drawn on paper won’t beat the U.S. military in a battle.

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan
A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, conducts a vertical landing at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 15 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez)

In pursuing the strategy of anti-access/area denial, known as A2AD, China assumes that the U.S. must launch aircraft from bases or aircraft carriers. But the F-35B, the U.S. Marine Corps’ variant of the most expensive weapons system of all time, doesn’t work that way.

“You can fly the F-35B literally anywhere,” David Berke, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, told Business Insider. “If your traditional places of operation are unavailable” — perhaps because Chinese missile fire cratered them, a likely tactic in a war — “the F-35B can be there.”

By taking off in just a few hundred feet or so and landing from a vertical drop, the F-35B frees up the Marine Corps from worrying about large, obvious bases.

If China targets carriers, the U.S. won’t use carriers

Marines have been training for this operating concept in the Pacific as well. In mid-January 2018, they landed an F-35B on a sloped platform, showing that future pilots could land their plane almost anywhere.

Throughout last year, F-35B crews trained on tactics like “hot loading” and “hot refueling,” which aims to turn reloading the F-35 — usually an affair that takes time, space, and a massive air base to support — into the equivalent of a NASCAR pit stop.

For the F-35B, the ground crew runs up to the jet while it’s still running to pump more fuel and load more bombs. In just a few minutes, atop a dirt floor with minimal support infrastructure in an improvised location China’s missiles won’t know to hit, the F-35B can take off again.

Also Read: How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

“Find me 600 feet of flat surface anywhere in the world, and I can land there,” said Berke, who compared the F-35B to the A-10 “Warthog,” the U.S. Air Force flying gun famous for its ability to land on dirt roads and fight on despite getting roughed up.

So while China has focused on pushing back the U.S.’s aircraft-carrier-bound fleets of F-18s, the Marines have cooked up a new strategy involving smaller carriers, like the USS Wasp, and heavy-lifting, quick-flying helicopters for support. Using the V-22 Osprey’s and the CH-53’s extreme-lifting capability, Marines could set up makeshift bases inside China’s supposed A2AD bubble.

From there, the stealth F-35Bs could take out the threats keeping the carriers at bay, poking holes in that bubble.

“If you’re looking at warfare two-dimensionally, you’re looking at it wrong,” Berke, a former F-35 squadron commander, said of the A2AD concept. “You don’t beat me in a boxing match ’cause your arms are longer than mine.”

The U.S. is sending the F-35B to the Pacific ASAP

The U.S.’s faith in the F-35B’s ability to shake up the balance of power in the Pacific is evident in recent deployments. The first outside the U.S. was in Japan.

Now, amid rising tensions with North Korea, an F-35B-capable aircraft carrier will station itself in Japan.

“You’re about to put for the first time ever fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” Berke said.

“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”

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