How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.

The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.

It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.


The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.

With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.

After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.

“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.

The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.

Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.

At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.

While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.

“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.

After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.

“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”

Risky missions

Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.

Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.

In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.

“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”

The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.

Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.

“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”

And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.

Hoist ops

Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.

“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.

In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.

Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.

“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.

While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.

(US Army photo)

“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”

The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.

The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.

“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

REDHORSE and Prime BEEF building up important air base

The 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group provides theater-wide engineering technical services, light and heavy troop labor construction and repairs within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in order to engineer combat power and establish and sustain combat platforms for USCENTCOM and other joint forces.

Within the 1st CEG are the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force, or PRIME BEEF, and the 557th Expeditionary Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, or REDHORSE, both sister tenants consisting of two separate construction teams with separate projects at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.


REDHORSE is a self-sustaining, mobile, heavy construction squadron, capable of rapid response and independent operations in remote, high-threat environments worldwide.

“We have teams all over the AOR building anything from taxiways on airfields to entire logistics support areas, to digging wells to provide water for bases in austere locations,” said Capt. Jared Erickson, 557th ERHS Al Dhafra AB site officer in charge.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Staff Sgt. Thomas Findlay, 557th Expeditionary Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron engineering assistant, explains the foundation configuration during construction of airfield damage repair quipment warehouse, Dec. 23, 2018, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)

“My team here on (Al Dhafra AB) is almost like a miniature mission support group,” added Erickson. “We have highly-skilled vehicle maintainers that keep our heavy equipment fleet running strong and a supply team that can acquire construction materials from around the world. We are a self-sustaining construction team that can build almost anything, anywhere.”

Two of the current projects the 557th ERHS are working on are a warehouse for airfield damage repair equipment and a new Patriot Missile site.

“We are building a 13,000-square-foot warehouse to store and protect (.7 million) worth of airfield damage repair equipment,” said Erickson. “Additionally, we are in the process of finalizing the new Patriot Missile site, including 15 different projects valued at (.8 million) for roads, launcher pads, sunshades, tents and an electrical distribution system.”

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Senior Airman Dekota Newson, 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force heavy equipment operator, remove excess cement from the foundation system to support a build during construction, Dec. 23, 2018, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)

The 577th Expeditionary PRIME BEEF Squadron provides a full range of engineering support required to establish, operate, and maintain garrison and contingency air bases.

Prime-BEEF forces maintain the necessary equipment and personnel to support fire emergency services; expedient construction; explosive incident response; emergency management; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response and many other specialized mission duties.

“The 577th EPBS is composed of Civil Engineering Air Force Specialty Codes, but have a separate role from base CE as we perform major construction and repair projects for (U.S. Air Forces Central Command),” said Capt. Paige Blackburn, 577 EPBS OIC of troop construction.

Currently, they are constructing a site by building an 18-foot tall mound and foundation to support a tower.

“The foundation system is made entirely from concrete and the site will have several miles of reinforcing steel rebar,” said Blackburn. “The tower and equipment weighs more than 120,000 pounds and is attached by large anchor bolts cast into the concrete piers. The tolerance of anchor bolt placement is extremely critical to ensure the tower frame will fit perfectly.”

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Members of the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force pour cement into the foundation system to support a build during construction, Dec. 23, 2018, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)

Projects such as this can be challenging and require the use of different techniques and skillsets to complete the task.

“Setting the anchor bolts perfectly was incredibly challenging,” added Blackburn. “To set this accurately required age-old techniques of steel tape, construction squares, basic trigonometry, true ingenuity and nearly all the ladders on base. Thankfully, we have Master Sgt. James Morgan, a Heavy and Construction Equipment expert Guardsman with 30 years of construction experience. The project involves a 15-person construction team.”

Other completed projects include a 320-room renovation totaling 0,000, a id=”listicle-2625336716″.4 million renovation of the Oasis Dining Facility, and several waterline, sewer line, and communication duct bank construction projects.

“(1st) ECEG is the preferred choice for projects that require a rapid construction completion date, and is also the safer option for construction that intertwines with sensitive and valuable information,” said Blackburn.

With the REDHORSE and Prime BEEF Squadrons providing their expertise throughout Al Dhafra AB, the base continues to improve for the next rotation of deployers and continuation of the mission.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what happened when a C-130 and a C-17 had a baby

The C-130 has a long legacy of getting troops and cargo from point A to point B. However, while the Hercules is versatile (from a gunship to wielding the powers of the Shadow) and a legend, let’s face it, it does have limitations. Part of it is the fact it can carry 22 tons at most in the C-130J-30 version.


So, Airbus decided to try to address that shortcoming. The result is the A400M Atlas, and like Japan’s C-2 transport, it is intended to fit in the niche between the C-130 and the C-17.

The difference is that while Japan chose to build a scaled-down C-17, Airbus decided that the answer involved giving the C-130 a “steroid” boost, just as Japan did with the F-16.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers
The 58 foot by 13 foot by 13 foot cargo bay of the A400M. (Wikimedia Commons)

The result is a plane that lists more (37 tons compared to 22), has more endurance (4,800 nautical miles to 2,100), and which can still land on rough fields like the C-130. The C-17, according to an Air Force fact sheet, needs a 3,500 foot runway.

So, what exactly does this mean? The cargo hold is 58 feet long, 13 feet high, and 13 feet wide. Airbus says the plane can carry an NH90 or CH-47 helicopter, or most infantry fighting vehicles.

And we’re not talking a Stryker — we’re talking a heavy infantry fighting vehicle like Germany’s Puma.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers
Two of the A400M’s engines turn clockwise, two turn counter-clockwise. (Wikimedia Commons)

The A400M will also be able to haul troops, and unlike the C-2 or C-17, it is also capable of being used as a tanker. Yeah, like the C-130, the Atlas is capable of topping up fighters on a ferry run or when they are headed out to carry strikes.

Below, you can see the Atlas do a move that few transports can do. But ultimately, this transport’s going to be doing a lot of hauling. Already, 46 are in service, with a total of 174 ordered.

MIGHTY SPORTS

First Army goes back to basics to prepare for the ACFT

The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.

But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?

First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.


“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.

(US Army)

Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.

“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.

(US Army)

Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.

“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”

In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.

(US Army)

“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”

The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.

MIGHTY GAMING

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular.

These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.


For the U.S. military, the rise of first-person shooters has been a welcome development. In recent years, the military has encouraged many of its soldiers to partake in the thrill of violent video games as a way to continue combat training, even when not on active duty. (In fact, using games to teach military tactics has been a longstanding practice in the U.S. military: Before video games, troops were encouraged to play military-themed board games.)

The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.

But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.

(YouTube/GamerDudester)

From battle screen to battlefield

As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.

The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.

Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”

In this, the Iraq War veteran seems to say that video games can reflect real-life combat situations, an attitude that others share.

Altered realities

But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.

Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.

In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”

Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”

Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.

“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”

Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.

“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”

Militarizing legions of gamers

Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.

Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.

(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)

Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.

However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.

“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”

Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”

“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added. How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers


This article was created by Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, University of Trento and Tobias Burgers, Freie Universität Berlin.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

Articles

This storied American brand is helping vets get into their homes — literally

Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.


With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.

But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers
Sears celebrity designer Ty Pennington (third from right) with Sears and Rebuilding Together volunteers look on as a veteran resident is the first to use an accessibility ramp built by the Sears Heroes at Home for the Holidays program at the Open Hearts Residential Living Center for veterans in Decatur, Ga., founded by U.S. Army veteran Missy Melvin. As part of its long-standing commitment to supporting veterans and military families, Sears brought back its Heroes at Home program for the holiday season to immediately assist in building dozens of wheelchair accessibility ramps at the homes of low-income veterans before Christmas. (PRNewsFoto/Sears, Roebuck and Co.)

This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.

According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.

“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”

See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.

Sears continues to raise funds for Heroes at Home in-store and online through the sale of limited-edition products, including a Kenmore patriotic washer/dryer pair, a Heroes at Home Christmas ornament and a Craftsman hat.  For more information, visit sears.com/heroesathome.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The destroyer that took on WWII kamikazes is coming to the big screen

During the Battle of Okinawa, one United States Navy ship went up against unbelievable odds — and survived to tell the incredible tale. The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724) faced off against a horde of Japanese pilots — some of whom, now known as kamikazes, were willing to crash into American vessels and sacrifice their lives to complete their mission.

Now, the Laffey’s story is coming to the big screen.

Mel Gibson, acclaimed actor and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Hacksaw Ridge, is currently working on Destroyer, a film based on the Wukovits’ book, Hell from the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack. The film will be centered around the 90 minutes of chaos experienced by the crew of the Laffey on April 16, 1945. In the span of roughly an hour and a half, the Laffey was hit by four bombs and struck by as many as eight kamikazes.


How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

USS Laffey (DD 724) during World War II, packing six dual-purpose five-inch guns and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Laffey’s story didn’t start and end with those fateful 90 minutes, however. After Okinawa, she was repaired and went on to see action in the Korean War. After Korea, she served until 1975, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels. Unlike many of her sister ships that went directly to the scrapyard, she was preserved as a museum and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

USS Laffey (DD 724, right) next to USS Hank (DD 702), a sister ship named after William Hank, the commanding officer of the first USS Laffey (DD 459).

(U.S. Navy)

Laffey’s commanding officer, Commander Frederick J. Becton, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that April day in 1945. Becton was a well-decorated troop in World War II. He received the Silver Star four times, including once for heroism on D-Day and twice more for actions in the Philippines while commanding the Laffey.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

The first USS Laffey (DD 459), a Benson-class destroyer, pulling alongside another ship in 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

A previous USS Laffey, a Benson-class destroyer with the hull number DD 459, saw action in the Battle of Cape Esperance, but became a legend during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in the early morning hours of Friday, November 13, 1942. The destroyer closed to within 20 feet of the Japanese battleship Hiei and wounded Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe before being sunk by enemy fire. The sinking of the Laffey cost many US lives, but left the Japanese without command in a pivotal moment.

It seems as though the name ‘Laffey’ is destined to fight the odds.

Check out the video below to see director Mel Gibson’s excitement as he discusses the near-impossible bravery of the USS Laffey at Okinawa.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL describes being wounded in search for Bergdahl

A retired Navy SEAL wounded in the search for US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, testified about the harrowing firefight that ended his career.


Speaking at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing Oct. 25, Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch choked up when describing how enemy combatants shot a trained dog that was with the team before shooting him just above his right knee.

“I really thought that I was going to die,” Hatch said.

Hatch walks with a limp after undergoing 18 surgeries to repair his leg.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers
Bowe Berghdal. Photo from US Army

The former Navy SEAL, forced to retire from the military after nearly 26 years of service because of injuries sustained while searching for Bergdahl, said he had known days before that the search was going to be hazardous.

Also Read: SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

“Somebody’s going to get killed or hurt trying to get that kid,” he recalled saying to his teammates.

Trump motion still pending

The hearing started with a surprise, as the judge, Colonel Jeffery R. Nance, said he was not yet ready to rule on the defense’s argument that recent comments by President Donald Trump had made a fair hearing impossible.

“I’m still considering it,” Nance said.

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers
President Donald Trump’s remarks on Bergdahl may affect the sentencing now that he is the Commander in Chief. Photo from White House Flickr.

The defense has argued that the president seemed to endorse previous assertions, made when he was a presidential candidate, that Bergdahl was a traitor and deserved execution. As commander in chief, he is the superior officer of all the military officials responsible for disciplining Bergdahl.

Questioned by reporters last week about Bergdahl, Trump said he couldn’t say more on the case, “but I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

Last week, Bergdahl pleaded guilty at a court-martial hearing to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing is expected to extend into next week.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany will expand its mission in Afghanistan

The German parliament has approved plans to extend the country’s military mission in Afghanistan.


A majority of lawmakers voted to approve a bill raising the maximum number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission by one-third to 1,300.

Also read: The US called out Germany on its failing military

The decision comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

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Early March 2018, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that the German troop increase should be matched with accelerated reforms by the Afghan government.

Related: Why Germany could buy the Marines’ new helicopter

She also warned that the military’s mission in Afghanistan would likely extend for some time, saying, “We need patience and a long breath, without question.”

Germany has contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.

The German military has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near Kunduz.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia might allow U.K investigators to question alleged spies

The Kremlin says it will study any British request to question the two men London suspects of trying to murder a former spy, in strict accordance with Russian law.

But spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no such request has been received so far.

Britain has charged two men, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, with attempting to murder former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

British authorities accuse them of spraying a military-grade nerve agent, Novichok, on Skripal’s front door in Salisbury in March 2018.


Peskov on Septe. 14, 2018, reiterated that the Kremlin denied any Russian state involvement in the poisoning.

Peskov’s comments come a day after the two men appeared in an interview on Kremlin-funded RT television station to proclaim their innocence.

The two denied they were agents of the military intelligence service widely known as the GRU and said they were merely tourists in the city southwest of London.

“Our friends had been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city,” Petrov said in the interview.

“They have a famous cathedral there,” Boshirov said, adding: “It is famous for its 123-meter spire.”

James Slack, spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, derided their claims as “lies and blatant fabrications.

“More importantly, they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack,” he said.

British officials have accused the suspects of smuggling Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume bottle and smearing some of it on the front door of Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the former intelligence officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.

The men interviewed by RT denied carrying the fake women’s perfume bottle with them.

“Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” one of the two men was quoted as saying by the Kremlin-funded RT.

“The customs are checking everything.They would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it.”

They also said they stayed less than one hour in Salisbury due to poor weather.

“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” one of the two men said, referring to local landmarks.

In a statement, the British government said the interview reflected more “obfuscation and lies” by Moscow.

“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service — the GRU — who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” it said.

“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March,” the statement also said. “Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”

The RT interview was aired a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, but claimed they were civilians.

“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said on Sept. 12, 2018.

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

Articles

Here’s what it’s like dodging six missiles in an F-16

It was in the opening days of Operation Desert Storm on Jan. 19, 1991 when fighter jets were roaring through Iraqi airspace, and anti-aircraft crews were waiting for them with surface-to-air missiles (SAM). For Air Force Maj. ET Tullia, it was an unforgettable mission that saw him cheating death not once, but six times.


Also Read: The AC-130 ‘Ultimate Battle Plane’ Is Getting Even More Firepower

According to Lucky-Devils, a military website that recounts much of the engagement, U.S. F-16s were trying to attack a rocket production facility north of Baghdad. The account continues:

As the flight approached the Baghdad IP, AAA [Anti-Aircraft Artillery] began firing at tremendous rates. Most of the AAA was at 10-12,000ft (3,658m), but there were some very heavy, large calibre explosions up to 27,000ft (8,230m). Low altitude AAA became so thick it appeared to be an undercast. At this time, the 388th TFW F-16’s were hitting the Nuclear Research Centre outside of the city, and the Weasels had fired off all their HARMs in support of initial parts of the strike and warnings to the 614th F-16’s going further into downtown went unheard.

Many of the F-16 pilots that day had to deal with SAM missiles locking on to them, and were forced to take evasive maneuvers. Maj. Tullia (Callsign: Stroke 3) had to dodge six of those missiles, at times banking and breathing so hard that he was losing his vision.

Again, via Lucky-Devils:

Meanwhile, ET became separated from the rest of the package because of his missile defensive break turns. As he defeats the missiles coming off the target, additional missiles are fired, this time, from either side of the rear quadrants of his aircraft. Training for SAM launches up to this point had been more or less book learning, recommending a pull to an orthogonal flight path 4 seconds prior to missile impact to overshoot the missile and create sufficient miss distance to negate the effects of the detonating warhead. Well, it works. The hard part though, is to see the missile early enough to make all the mental calculations.

The following video apparently shows footage through the view of Tullia’s heads-up display that day, and around the 3:00 mark, you can hear the warning beeps that a missile is locked on. Although the video is a bit grainy, the real focus should be on the hair-raising radio chatter, which, coupled with his heavy breathing, makes you realize that fighter pilots need to be in peak physical condition to do what they do.

YouTube, Scott Jackson

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian secret agents were reportedly stationed in villages in the French Alps

US and European intelligence agencies discovered Russian military intelligence members to be working from the French Alps, according to an NBC News report published Thursday. News of the operation was first reported by French newspaper Le Monde.

Up to 15 members of the GRU, the Kremlin’s military intelligence agency, had lived in the French Alps, where they established their base for European covert operations, according to the reports. Some of the alleged officers’ names were previously published by Bellingcat, an independent investigative group.


Two of the Russian agents, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Roshirov, were accused of poisoning defected Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the UK in 2018. The two Russian agents reportedly used aliases and a military-grade nerve agent to poison the Skripals. Both of them recovered after being hospitalized.

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Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov during an interview, Sept. 12, 2018.

(RT News)

The Russian government denied involvement and said it did “not understand why that was done and what signal the British side is sending.”

“We heard or saw two names, but these names mean nothing to me personally,” Russian diplomat Yuri Ushakov told reporters at the time, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.

The French Alps’s roughly 620-mile-long chain of mountains is the longest in Europe. It includes a number of hiking trails, natural parks, and skiing destinations.

The GRU has been accused of orchestrating cyber operations against the West. In 2018, it was accused of a global hacking campaign against anti-doping agencies, a nuclear power company, and a chemical-weapons watchdog, according to Reuters.

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Head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Department Igor Kostyukov.

In addition to cyber operations, the GRU also reportedly has a special operations unit composed of Russian military service members. The agency also recruits sleeper agents “reserved for the most sensitive or deniable tasks across the spectrum of GRU operations,” according to a Western report acquired by Reuters.

Several of the agency’s leaders have been sanctioned by Western countries, including the US, UK, and the Netherlands.

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

Articles

6 things to know about the VA home loan

The Veterans Affairs home loan can be incredibly confusing, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information found on the VA website. So we have broken it down into six basic questions for you: who, what, when, where, why, and how?


*As always, when making decisions that impact your personal finances, make sure you’re sitting down with a financial advisor. Most banks have financial advisors on staff who are always willing to work with customers.

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Veterans Affairs employs assessors and appraisers to ensure that each home purchased by service members is priced correctly.(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Glassey, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

1. Who:

Lendee eligibility is determined by service status:

Active duty personnel must have served a minimum of 90 continuous days to be eligible

Reserve or guard members must:

  • have six years of service in the selected reserve or National Guard, and
  • be discharged honorably, or
  • have been placed on the retired list, or
  • have been transferred to Standby Reserve or to an element of Ready Reserve (other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable), or
  • still be servicing in the Selected Reserve

Spouses can be eligible as well.

2. What:

The VA home loan program is a benefit for eligible service members and veterans to help them in the process of becoming homeowners by guaranteeing them the ability to acquire a loan through a private lender.

Utilizing the VA home loan, lendees do not make a down payment and are not required to pay monthly mortgage insurance, though they are required to pay a funding fee. This fee varies by lender, depends on the loan amount, and can change depending on the type of loan, your service situation, whether you are a first time or return lendee, and whether you opt to make a down payment.

The fee may be financed through the loan or paid for out of pocket, but must be paid by the close of the sale.

The fee for returning lendees and for National Guard and members of the reserve pay a slightly higher fee.

The fee may also be waived if you are:

  • a veteran receiving compensation for a service related disability, or
  • a veteran who would be eligible to receive compensation for a service related disability but does not because you are receiving retirement or active duty pay, or
  • are the surviving spouse of a veteran who died in service or from a service related disability.

3. When:

Lendees may utilize the loan program during or after honorable active duty service, or after six years of select reserve or National Guard service.

4. Where:

Eligible lendees may use the VA home loan in any of the 50 states or United States territories

5. Why:

Veterans Affairs helps service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses to purchase a home. The VA home loan itself does not come from the VA, but rather through participating lenders, i.e. banks and mortgage companies. With VA guaranteeing the lendee a certain amount for the loan, lenders are able to provide more favorable terms.

6. How:

Eligible lendees should talk to their lending institution as each institution has its own requirements for how to acquire the loan.

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