Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie

Topeka, Kansas is home to PAFRA where they host the World Championship Rodeo. The organization has eight circuits across North America and Europe. This non-profit organization sees participants travel from all over the world, to compete in events to include: Bareback Bronc Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Ladies Breakaway Roping, Tie-Down Roping, Chute Dogging, Steer Wrestling, Ladies Barrel Racing, Cowboy Mounted Shooting and Bull Riding. There is also team heeling and heading roping events.


The rodeo has participants from active duty, veterans, retirees and dependents representing every branch of service. PAFRA hosts one World Championship Rodeo every year in October, and because of the unique nature of hosting a rodeo involving active-duty participants (who deploy, PCS, etc.) PAFRA doesn’t require a point system to qualify for the World Championship, only that participants be a member in good standing. This year the World Championship Rodeo will be Oct. 15-17, 2020 at the Landon Arena Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka.

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie

PAFRA is managed and produced in full by an all-volunteer force of members and community supporters. Their participation has been vital to the success and professionalism of the rodeo events. Because of all the volunteers that are essential to the rodeo’s operations, the organization has prioritized community service in their own right. “We are ultimately there to rodeo, but we also want to expand that servant leadership, that giving back to the communities that are hosting us,” said Steve Milton, PR and Marketing Director for the Rodeo. That community involvement ranges from hosting a kids’ rodeo to visiting veterans at the Topeka VA Medical Center, to even making a special appearance at the Stormont Vail Hospital Pediatric Unit. “We were able to bring horses out to the hospital, let the kids come pet the horses and interact with the rodeo clowns and cowboys; that was really special for us as an organization,” Milton added.

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie

PAFRA looks to continue to build upon their participation, support and partnership, and bids for the PAFRA 2020 20th Annual World Championship Rodeo are now open. If you are interested in learning more, partnering, volunteering or competing you can visit www.rodeopafra.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Winning a Nobel Prize isn’t as easy as you think

There have been calls to award a Nobel Peace Prize to everyone involved with ending the Korean War, including President Donald Trump. Given that the award has a broad selection process, it’s much more competitive than you’d think and the specifics about the process are often kept secret for fifty years.


Any person, group, or organization can be nominated after doing, in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s will, “the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The only officially recognized nominators include heads of state, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and current or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie
The first ever recipient was Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross. His organization would win the award three more times.

Any submissions must be done begin in September and the absolute cut-off is February 1st. Between the beginning of February and the end of March, the list is combed through and a short list is prepared for April.

In 2018, there were 328 candidates and each of the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee usually pick five nominees. Because of the secrecy around the process, the Nobel Committee combs through the maybe twenty-five candidates until September.

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie
This year’s front-runner is The White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue organization that saved countless lives during the Syrian Civil War.
(United States Agency for International Development)

In October, the voting between the members begins and the winner is chosen. The decision is final and there are no appeals. Hence the secrecy. No one can be upset that they weren’t picked if they didn’t know they got that far. Once the voting has finished, it’s announced to the world who the winner for that year will be.

Then comes the big day on December 10th. The new laureate receives their shiny golden award, a diploma, and a monetary prize. The prize money in 2017 was 9 million Swedish Kronas, which is $1,028,655 US Dollars. The prize money is often donated to which ever cause the recipient championed.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Guardsmen hope this new bathroom rule will motivate soldiers

Guardsmen from the Utah Army National Guard implemented a policy of doing physical exercise prior to using the bathroom at the organization’s headquarters in Draper, Utah.

“Soldiers will perform one [Army Combat Fitness Test] leg tuck (LTK) to enter and/or exit,” a sign read in front of both female and male bathrooms.

The new rule, which the Utah Guard says will not be strictly enforced, was given by its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Eric Anderson. A public affairs officer for the Utah Guard said the directive is not intended to be a serious mandate and is purely for motivational purposes.


“One of the weaknesses we noticed in our soldiers is the leg tuck,” Maj. DJ Gibb said to Insider. “We just had a couple of these pull-up bars in our work-out areas.”

The sign is intended to be a friendly prompt that “when [soldiers] get a chance, [they] should,” Gibb said, referring to the leg tuck.

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie

(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)

The purpose of the loose rule was to motivate its soldiers to pass the ACFT, the Army’s newest physical assessment test. Soldiers are expected to take two ACFT assessments by this month, and the Army will officially begin administering on-the-record tests starting October 2020.

The ACFT is comprised of six separate, timed events ranging from deadlifts to a two-mile run. The leg tuck, one of the events, requires soldiers to “complete as many … as possible in two minutes” on a pull-up bar as they “maintain a relative vertical posture while moving the hips and knees up and down without excessive swinging or kipping.”

“The LTK assesses the strength of the Soldiers grip, arm, shoulder and trunk muscles,” the Army says on its website. “These muscles assist Soldiers in load carriage and in avoiding injuries to the back.”

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U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

The ACFT is slated to replace the Army’s antiquated Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The APFT consisted of a timed two-mile run, push-ups, and sit-ups and has been in use by the Army since 1980. Critics assailed the APFT for not adequately measuring the combat readiness of a soldier, and calls for a revamped test prompted the Army to research newer methods of assessing physical fitness.

Despite some concerns in the military community about the new ACFT, namely potential injuries and costs of the program, Gibb said the Utah Guard was “confident” that the new standards will continue to be met.

“I think we do put an emphasis on the readiness of our soldiers, and it’s attributed to little things like this,” Gibb said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Search underway after 2 Marine Corps aircraft crash

Update: One Marine has been recovered alive but a second unfortunately perished. Five Marines are still missing and search-and-rescue operations are still underway.

A search is underway for the crews of two U.S. Marine Corps aircraft involved in an aerial crash near Japan at 2 a.m. on December 6 during aerial refueling operations.


Japanese aircraft are assisting the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the search which, according to reporting from USNI News and CBS, involved a two-seater F/A-18D Hornet and a KC-130J tanker. The Hornet had two crew onboard and the tanker had five crew members, according to CBS.

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JMSDF – MCAS Iwakuni Friendship Day 2018

The Marine Corps released a statement after the incident:

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan – Search and rescue operations continue for U.S. Marine aircraft that were involved in a mishap off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m. Dec. 6.

The aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and were conducting regularly scheduled training when the mishap occurred.

Japanese search and rescue aircraft immediately responded to aid in recovery.

The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. There is no additional information available at this time.

The local time of 2 a.m. in Japan translated to approximately noon EST.

The III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, is the lead agency for media response, so updates should come from the News section of the Marine website or the III MEF Twitter.

Aerial refueling is, naturally, a hazardous activity but the U.S. military practices this capability regularly as safe aerial refueling is a major combat multiplier, allowing strike pilots to extend their range and patrol times. This is especially true for the Navy and Marine Corps as their planes are often launched from carriers or amphibious assault ships where launch weight is a major factor.

Reducing launch weight can mean a reduction in either fuel or weapons load, but this can be countered by launching with limited fuel and then topping off in flight from a tanker like the KC-130J.

Update: One Marine has been rescued, 2nd Lt. Alyssa J. Morales, a spokeswoman for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, told Task Purpose.

Update 2: The Japanese Self-Defense Forces has a second Marine who unfortunately perished in the crash. The Marine rescued earlier is now reportedly in stable condition. An earlier version of this update erroneously said that the second Marine had been recovered alive.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

Afghanistan’s government wants the U.S. to redeploy the A-10 Thunderbolt to bolster efforts to fight the Taliban, according to a Military Times report.


A senior Afghan defense official said that country’s government wants the vaunted A-10, which is highly regarded for its durability and lethality in close-air-support operations, to return to Afghanistan.

No decision on A-10 deployments has been made, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, who directs U.S. air operations in Afghanistan. “The discussions of what forces we move to Afghanistan or drawdown from Iraq and Syria are all ongoing,” Bunch said.

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(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

After the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria in July and October, respectively, operations against ISIS in those two countries, in which the A-10 played a major role, have begun to wind down.

President Donald Trump has also started to pursue an expansion of U.S. operations in Afghanistan over the later half of 2017 and the Air Force may see increased operations in Afghanistan as a part of that expansion.

In September, the Air Force chief of staff said the force was “absolutely” reviewing greater involvement following Trump’s decision on Afghanistan strategy.

The Air Force has deployed six more F-16 fighter aircraft — bringing the total to 18 F-16s — and a KC-135 tanker aircraft to Afghanistan in recent months. And the air war in the country has already intensified. (Though the Pentagon has begun classifying previously available data about military operations in Afghanistan.)

The numbers of weapons released by U.S. combat aircraft in Afghanistan have hit highs not seen since the 2010 surge. Air Forces Central Command data released in October showed 751 weapons dropped in September, eclipsing the 503 released in August and setting a new five-year high. (Data released in November adjusted September’s total down to 414 and recorded a new high — 653 — in October.)

Now Read: Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also turned their attention to the Taliban’s involvement in the drug trade in an effort to cut into the insurgent group’s financing. Advanced F-22 fighters, joined by B-52 bombers and Afghan A-29 Tucano propeller aircraft, attacked drug labs in November.

Since then, about 25 Taliban drug labs in northern Helmand province — a hotbed for Afghan drug production — have been destroyed, costing the Taliban almost $16 million in revenue, according to Bunch, who said the air campaign against Taliban financing had only “just begun.”

In 2017, area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 63% over the previous year, according to U.N. data. Even though eradication increased 111% during that period, the number of opium-poppy-free provinces declined from 13 to 10.

The Taliban has gotten heavily involved in the drug trade. The insurgent group has also expanded its territorial control in Afghanistan — from 11% of the country’s 407 districts in February to 13% in August.

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie
Dead poppies mark the destruction of a poppy field in the district of Por Chaman in Farah Province, Afghanistan, May 10. The destruction of the poppy field occurred in the presence of Farah Provincial Governor Rahool Amin, as an effort to promote positive agricultural solutions such as wheat cultivation. (ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rylan K. Albright)

Trump’s new strategy will also deploy more U.S. troops to Afghanistan — some of whom will embed with Afghan forces closer to the fighting. That could put them in harm’s way and will likely lead to more U.S. aircraft providing close air support, at which the A-10 excels.

The Air Force backed away from plans to begin mothballing its A-10 fleet earlier this year. The Air Force has pushed Congress for additional funding to produce new wings for 110 of its 283 Thunderbolts, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson assured lawmakers this month that money allotted for that project would keep the A-10 dominant.

“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The world’s most beloved veteran superhero is dead at 95

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was the start of superhero fandom for millions. For many, many others, it was just the latest iteration of graphic works of art – this time, come to life on the big screen. And inside each of those was a small cameo, a little role to play for the man who started it all, Stan Lee.


For the veteran community, Stan Lee was a fantastic example of life after serving. In the Pinks and Greens of his World War II enlistment, the young Lee might be unrecognizable to many of us today. But in true superhero form, he saw the world needed his help and he donned his superhero uniform in 1942 (which just happened to be one of the Army’s signal corps) and enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Lee during his WWII-era enlistment.

(U.S. Army)

It’s probably more difficult to imagine Stan Lee in his early years, merely filling inkwells as an assistant at a pulp comics publisher. It was there that Lee created his first comic stories, including the exploits of Captain America. Eventually, he worked his way up to editor-in-chief of that same publication.

Lee’s time in the Army came just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Army installed the young Stanley Martin Lieber (Lee’s birth name, he changed it to his pen name later) as a telephone pole lineman. After realizing it made a mistake, he was moved to the training film division to create posters and worked as a writer of films, shorts, and comics for the duration of the war.

Throughout his life, Lee would use his experiences to influence his characters and his later works – and the Army was a small but significant part of it.

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After leaving the Army, Lieber went back to his work in publishing, destined to become the great Stan Lee we know today. Throughout the 50s and 60s, he and artist Jack Kirby created some of the most enduring characters in American literature, thanks in no small part to Lee’s perspective on what makes characters relatable. Where rival DC Comics and other publishers at the time created heroic, idealistic archetypical characters, Lee created complex characters with deep flaws who also happened to be imbued with tremendous power and the will to do what was right.

Save for the superpowers, these were people we could all relate. They were to be the kinds of hero many aspired to be. The publisher who gave Stan Lee his start as an assistant and later his role as chief soon changed its name to Marvel Comics. Stan Lee began creating the characters we all grew to love in our early years, the same one the Marvel Cinematic Universe is gifting to our children.

Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association provides community service and camaraderie

Lee collaborated with artist-writer Jack Kirby on stories, like The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Silver Surfer, and X-Men. With artist-writer Steve Ditko, he created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and with artist Bill Everett came Daredevil. Lee created or co-created many of the world’s now-beloved favorites.

“I’ve tried to write stories that anybody would enjoy,” Lee once said. “I’ve tried to make them understandable enough, and exciting or suspenseful or interesting enough for youngsters… to hold their interest. And I’ve tried to make them hopefully intelligent enough for older people.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin surprises Japan with offer of unconditional peace

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed signing a World War II peace treaty with Japan by the end of 2018 “without preconditions.”

Putin made the surprise offer in public, sitting next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a stage at an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok on Sept. 12, 2018.

After Abe pressed Putin on the subject of a treaty and a solution to the decades-long dispute over a group of islands claimed by both countries, Putin said: “An idea has just come into my head.”

“Shinzo said, ‘Let’s change our approaches.’ Let’s! Let’s conclude a peace agreement — not now but by the end of the year, without any preconditions,” Putin said.

He said issues that are in dispute could be resolved later, and that the pact could specify that the sides are determined to reach mutually acceptable agreements.


There was no immediate response from Abe, whose country has sought the return of the islands that lie northeast of Hokkaido since the war.

A treaty without preconditions would leave Russia in control of the disputed islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories.

Soviet forces occupied the islands at the end of World War II, and the territorial dispute has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from formally ending hostilities in the war.

Russian and Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said that work on a future agreement would continue as usual, and a Japanese official made clear that Tokyo wants an agreement on possession of the islands before it will sign a peace treaty.

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Location of the Kuril Islands in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.


“The government will continue its negotiations on the basic principle that we will sign a peace treaty after resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “This stance hasn’t changed.”

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told Russian news agencies that Putin’s announcement would not require any changes to the current format of negotiations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later in the day that Putin and Abe had not had a chance to discuss the proposal.

Russian commentator Georgy Kunadze, a former deputy foreign minister, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he believes Putin was “trolling” Abe and “does not expect anything” to result from the proposal.

The quest for the return of the islands is an emotive issue in Japan, and Kunadze suggested that Abe would never accept a deal that would be political suicide.

In years of talks, Russian officials have repeatedly signaled that Japan could not hope for a swift solution and hinted that the best way to get closer to a deal was to invest in the sparsely populated, windswept islands and engage in other areas of economic cooperation.

Meeting Abe on the sidelines of the forum in Vladivostok two days earlier, Putin had told the Japanese prime minister that “it would be naive to think that it can be resolved quickly.”

In his remarks on Sept. 12, 2018, Putin said concluding a pact would create a better atmosphere and enable Russia and Japan to “continue to resolve all outstanding issues like friends.”

“It seems to me that this would facilitate the solution of all problems, which we have not been able to solve over the past 70 years.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DoD might get awesome stealth target drone thanks to cadets

Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy are working with aerospace instructors and industry partners to develop the Defense Department’s first large stealth target drone to test missile tracking systems.

“As far as we know, this is the first large stealth target drone,” said Thomas McLaughlin, the Academy’s Aeronautic Research Center director.

McLaughlin said the project is the DoD’s first aircraft development with significant contributions by cadets at a service academy.

“It has had cadet involvement in its evolution over several years,” McLaughlin said. “It’s quite rare that a student design has evolved to the point of potential inventory use.”


Dr. Steven Brandt and Cadet 1st Class Joshua Geerinck are among the Academy members who have worked to perfect the drone’s physical design for more than a decade. Brandt teaches aircraft design and is on the team of government and industry experts overseeing contractor work on the project.

“For the first five years, we just did design studies,” Brandt said. “Finally, in the fall of 2007, we said “let’s build an aircraft.”

Cadets and faculty have worked on the drone’s design since 2008 as part of that government industry team. The current version is 40 feet long, with a 24-foot wingspan and 9-foot-high vertical tails.

“It’s the size of a T-38 trainer aircraft,” Brandt said, referring to the Northrop T-38 Talon, a two-seat, twin-jet supersonic jet trainer. “[The target drone] uses two T-38 Trainer engines. We explored multiple options to refine its shape and helped eliminate designs that were not as good.”

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A T-38 Talon flies over Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 7, 2018.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco)

McLaughlin said the project is important because of its implications in the national defense arena.

“The government owns the intellectual property rights, which makes for substantially reduced production and sustainment costs down the road,” he said.

Geerinck is one of three cadets on the project. He’s been testing the flight stability of the target drone in the Academy’s wind tunnel.

“We’re trying to find a combination of flight-control inputs that will always cause the aircraft to enter a backflip that will cause it to crash,” he said. “The system is important because it allows us to prevent injury or damage to other people or persons on the ground in case there is a catastrophic failure or loss of control.”

McLaughlin said cadets will stay involved in the development of the prototype through its initial flight test and beyond, should it go into production.

“The entire project is the validation of the Academy’s emphasis on putting real-world problems before cadets and expecting them to make real contributions to Air Force engineering,” he said. “In the Aeronautics Department, all cadets perform research and aircraft design — it’s not just for top students.”

Cadets don’t just learn about engineering at the Academy, “they perform it,” McLaughlin said.

“They put their heart and soul into their efforts, knowing that an external customer cares about the outcome of their work,” he said. “Our research program relies on a high level of mentorship that is as much about role modeling as it is about learning facts.”

Brandt said the government-industry team plans to demonstrate the target drone in September at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City. Depending on the results of that demo, the Defense Department could purchase the design or select it for prototyping.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

Why alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl doesn’t want a jury trial

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has decided to be tried by a judge — not a military jury — on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan.


Bergdahl’s lawyers told the court in a brief filing last week that their client chose trial by judge alone, rather than a panel of officers. He faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy at his trial scheduled for late October at Fort Bragg. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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Bowe Bergdahl in a photo after his capture by Taliban insurgents. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Defense attorneys declined to comment on the decision. But they previously questioned whether Bergdahl could get a fair trial by jury because of negative comments President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail.

Earlier this year the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance rejected a defense request to dismiss the case over Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl.

Potential jurors had already received a questionnaire including questions about their commander in chief, but defense attorneys weren’t allowed to ask jurors if they voted for Trump.

Rachel VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer not involved in the case, said defense attorneys likely felt limited in how they could probe juror opinions.

“They lost their ability to ask all the questions they wanted to ask, one of those being: ‘Did you vote for President Trump?'” said VanLandingham, who teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. “They felt that was very important … for fleshing out whether a panel member could be fair.”

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Former President Obama and Bowe Bergdahl’s parents. (Photo from the Obama White House Archives)

Beyond concerns about jurors, she said Nance has so far demonstrated his objectivity.

“His pretrial rulings have shown that he’s fair,” she said.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009. The soldier from Idaho has said he intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

He was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the trade jeopardized the nation’s security.

Bergdahl has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his case.

Articles

US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

Related: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

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U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

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Special Operations Command photo

Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”

A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

Related: ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

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U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy

The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The family of this Battle of the Bulge veteran is trying to get the recognition he’s owed

For the second time in two decades, John “Russ” Orders was hopeful he would receive a Purple Heart for his sacrifice during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.


A ceremony planned for last month, during which Orders would have been awarded the Purple Heart, has been postponed. Orders’ award status remains in limbo because of a missing document that details how and when Orders received his injuries.

“Obviously, the government takes a little longer than normal, but they sent us back a reply when we requested the Purple Heart and they said that they needed more information,” said Dave Bowen, a chaplain for Access Home Care and Hospice who has served as liaison between the US Army and Orders. “But all the information they requested was on the paperwork that I submitted, so I’m not sure what they are looking for.”

Currently, Orders is a resident at the Cottonwood Cove retirement home in Pocatello.

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Purple heart medals. USMC photo by Cpl. Sara A. Carter

It was a freezing January night in 1945 and Orders — a member of the US Army’s 102nd “Ozark” Infantry Division — was driving a supply truck to the front lines when a German artillery round struck his truck, exploded on impact, and knocked him unconscious. When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed in France with severe injuries to his left hand.

Six months later, the US Army honorably discharged Orders, and in addition to the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, he received two Bronze Stars, a Good Conduct Medal, and the American Theater Ribbon.

Despite his injures, Orders did not receive the Purple Heart.

For decades, he didn’t pursue the award because he thought that it was reserved for those who had been shot. Before her passing in 2012, Orders’ late wife, Jeanne Orders, interviewed and documented his service record during the war.

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Oscar L. Davis Jr., receives a purple heart for his past service in World War II. Army photo by Capt. John. J. Moore.

But the US Army cannot rely on Jeanne’s notes and must confirm the information through an action report that details how and when his injuries would have occurred.

The only problem is that the action report may not exist, according to Orders’ son-in-law, Kevin Haskell.

Haskell said any specific records for Orders’ were stored in St. Louis, Missouri, and were likely destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.

“I haven’t got a clue what (the US Army) is looking for,” Haskell said. “Fifteen years ago, my wife (Jolynn Haskell) and my mother-in-law ( Jeanne Orders) went through this whole process. Before Dave brought it back up, we had totally forgotten about it.”

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The NPRC records fire of 1973. Image from VA.

Haskell continued, “What’s disappointing is the US Army doesn’t want to act on the evidence we have provided — they want to go off the paperwork.”

The same technicality prevented Orders from receiving the Purple Heart several years before Jeanne died, so to reach the same point again has left Kevin and Jolynn wondering if Orders will ever get the recognition they think he deserves.

“Jolynn was quite disappointed because we thought that the process was all worked out,” Kevin Haskell said. “We were told that it was approved and thought that they had progressed it through, but now it’s postponed because there are more forms that (the US Army) needs.”

Haskell said that it’s not the fact that Orders hasn’t received the Purple Heart, but that the process reached a point where the retirement home scheduled a pinning ceremony that Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo planned to attend, only to find out just days before that more information was necessary.

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Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Stephany Miller.

“It was definitely a surprise,” Haskell said. “We thought he was finally going to get it. We are getting asked by residents in the center why he’s not getting the award and we don’t know what to tell them. To go that far and then all of a sudden put a stop to it is pretty disappointing.”

Though there’s a chance that Orders will receive the Purple Heart, Bowen said he is uncertain how probable that outcome will be considering this isn’t the first scenario in which further documentation was missing.

But that hasn’t stopped him from trying.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this happens,” Bowen said. “We will push this until we get an absolute no from the Army.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Huge, strange-looking’ snakes spotted around Marine base

A year after Marines were told to quit feeding an alligator that lived near their barracks, reports of “huge” snakes at a North Carolina base have prompted officials to reiterate their warnings against pets, scaly or otherwise.

A red-tailed boa, a nonvenomous snake commonly kept as a pet, was spotted in a parking lot at Camp Lejeune in June 2019. The sighting followed another report of a 2-foot-long ball python slithering in the lobby of the barracks in the Wallace Creek.

“Since we have had two fairly recent incidents, we felt it was important to educate base personnel and the public on the issues that can be caused when exotic species are either intentionally or unintentionally released into the natural environment,” Emily Gaydos, a wildlife biologist with Camp Lejeune’s land and wildlife resources section said.


The Marine Corps doesn’t track the number of exotic snakes or other animals found on base, Gaydos said. But the pair of reports prompted officials to remind Marines that snakes are not among the domestic animals they’re allowed to have in base housing.

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A red-tailed boa.

“Domestic animals do not include wild, exotic animals such as venomous, constrictor-type snakes or other reptiles, raccoons, skunks, ferrets, iguanas, or other ‘domesticated’ wild animals,” a release put out last week states. “No privately-owned animals are allowed in work areas, barracks, or bachelor officer or enlisted quarters.”

There were no reports of snake bites or other injuries after the reptiles were found in the barracks and parking lot, Gaydos said. Neither are poisonous. The snakes were both transferred to local rehabilitation facilities that are “permitted and have the expertise to properly care for the specific species,” she added.

Since neither snake is native to the Camp Lejeune region, officials there warned Marines of the unintended consequences of introducing them into the environment.

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A ball python.

“An exotic species may prey on native species, have no predators, outcompete native species for food or other resources, introduce diseases, or interrupt a native species’ life cycle in some way,” the release warns.

In Florida, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there is trying to fight the spread of iguanas, which are thriving in the warmer temperatures there. The Washington Post reported that homeowners there are being told to “kill the green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” as the lizard population booms without any natural predators.

This isn’t the first time North Carolina Marines have been warned about messing up the local ecosystem.

Last year, a nearly 6-foot-long alligator had to be moved after wildlife experts discovered the reptile living near the barracks at Marine Corps Air Station New River was being fed by humans.

Marines tempted to feed the local creatures were given clear guidance: Don’t even think about it.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This powerful vodka will bring genuine clarity to your veteran spirit

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear of Messed-Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For your Secret Santa 007:

~ a bottle of premium, military-grade vodka ~

Would it be a gross generalization to say that military… uhhhh…”spiritual” preferences tend to run toward the darker-colored varieties–the bourbons? The scotches? The whiskeys? And, failing whiskey, beer? Without question, most of the veteran entrepreneurs we’ve met who operate in the alcoholic beverage sector are almost single-mindedly focused on bringing either whiskey or beer to market.

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USMC Veteran Travis McVey, founder of Heroes Vodka, in 2009. This photo might be blurry, but their mission is clear. (Photo from Heidelberg Distributing YouTube)

Marine Corps veteran and former Presidential Honor Guard Travis McVey is happy to be the exception to that rule. After the combat fatality of a close friend in Afghanistan, McVey opted for clarity over darkness and murk. He started a vodka company.

“Vodka, you make today and sell tomorrow. You don’t have to age it. It’s gender neutral. It’s seasonless. And it outsells all the other spirits combined.”

If that sounds unsentimentally strategic as a description of one’s central product, McVey would counter by pointing to his label and to the millions of servicemembers’ stories that anchor it. Heroes Vodka is all about sentiment where it counts. The brand is dedicated to the brave men and women who protect the country, at home and abroad.

 

A portion of every sale goes directly to AMVETS, Operation Stand Down, and other organizations in support of community assistance programs for American veterans, active duty military, and their families. To date, McVey has donated more than $60,000, but most important is the message the brand projects.  Etched into the company’s DNA and broadcast to the world with every nightly news profile, tasting award, and Instagram post, a single message is clear:

 

We Are The Mighty couldn’t say it better or agree more.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

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