Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe has rotated units from the U.S. to the European continent in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The ongoing operation aims to enhance NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression and deter future conflicts like the War in Donbass. The rotations and joint and multinational training build readiness and strengthen bonds with NATO allies. For one helicopter crew, the training turned into a real-life emergency response.
On December 15, 2020, the five-soldier crew of a CH-47F Chinook was returning from a training mission. The crew, assigned to B Company, 6th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is posted in Illesheim, Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. However, on their way home, the crew witnessed an emergency on the ground.
“We were flying over a ridgeline in a rural area,” said pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Acton. “Once we cleared it, my crew chief in the back came on the comms system and said he saw a puff of white smoke on the road below.” A civilian car got into a serious accident on the road below the Chinook.
“After I called that in, I looked further down the road and saw a car roll over two or three times, “said crew chief Spc. Bruce Cook. Now aware of the emergency situation on the ground, the crew requested permission to assist.
“It was like we all simultaneously thought the same thing…that the right thing to do was to assist however we could,” said co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Riedel. “I like to think its natural human instinct to want to stop and help in any way that you can.” The air mission commander gave them the green light and the Chinook descended to the site of the car crash.
Once the helicopter was on the ground, brigade flight surgeon Maj. Benjamin Stork assessed the situation, jumped out, and ran to the crash. “I checked my medical pack attached to my vest to make sure I had everything I might need to stabilize possible injuries,” said Stork. “Once I got to the man in the crash, I checked his vitals and made sure he was cognizant; thankfully, he spoke English pretty well because my German is pretty broken.”
Stork stabilized the man’s neck and back before an ambulance arrived on the scene. After briefing the paramedics on the situation, Stork helped them transfer the man to the ambulance and ran back to the helicopter. “All in all, from noticing the car flip to getting the wheels up off the ground, about 30 minutes passed,” said Stork. “Every piece of the operation felt organic, smooth and controlled because of how well these guys talk to each other.”
The quick, efficient, and professional response by the Chinook crew demonstrates the effectiveness of the countless hours of training that they go through. “We are in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, and for the most part that means that we train together with our ally and partner military forces,” said Col. Travis Habhab, commander of the 101st CAB. “I think that an important part of building that partnership and trust also lies in connecting with and supporting the local community where we can. The level we train at is what allows us to let these types of responses happen organically, and I’m incredibly proud of our Wings of Destiny Soldiers for making the call to help someone in a situation that could have been much worse.”
The suicide vehicle reportedly hit a military convoy near Kandahar Airfield, a major US base in Afghanistan, according to a provincial spokesperson in a Stars and Stripes report.
The soldiers, who are reportedly in stable condition, are receiving care from US medical facilities, the Military Times reported. No coalition forces were killed after the attack, the Military Times reported.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, in addition to other attacks on Nov. 13, according to multiple reports. In western Farah province, eight Afghan police officers were reportedly killed in their sleep, after insurgents wearing night-vision goggles ambushed them in their beds.
President Donald Trump recently increased troop numbers in Afghanistan, where the US has been at war for 16 years. At least 15,000 US troops are deployed in the country, with plans to send more, according to US officials.
In case you haven’t heard yet, six Marine Corps lieutenants are facing separation after they were allegedly caught cheating on a land-nav course. That’s right — this isn’t something you’re reading on Duffel Blog. This actually happened, and it’s being reported on by the Marine Corps Times.
Now, I understand the whole “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” mentality of the military (I, too, was once in the E-4 Mafia), but come on! If you know that whatever you’re about to do might forever get you forever laughed at while reinforcing stereotypes that have existed since the military first gave a lieutenant a compass, you might want to think twice.
Now, these memes may not be as funny as that, but they’ll elicit a chuckle or two.
The White House has decided to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, as the Trump administration steps up its maximum-pressure campaign against Iran.
This is the first time the US has applied the designation to part of a foreign government, which the White House on April 8, 2019, said “underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments.”
“This unprecedented step,” President Donald Trump said in a statement April 8, 2019, “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”
“This action sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences,” the president added.
Designating the Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization clears the way for US prosecutors to target those who provide material support to it. Conducting business with the group will now be considered a criminal offense punishable by law.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
“This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and should surprise no one,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said April 8, 2019, further commenting that the Quds Force, which is also being identified as a foreign terrorist organization, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US troops in Iraq.
“The Middle East cannot be more stable and peaceful without weakening the IRGC,” a senior administration official said on background before April 8, 2019’s announcement. “We have to diminish their power. The IRGC has been threatening American troops and our operations almost since the time it was formed.”
The Pentagon said that Iran-backed militants killed 603 US troops from 2003 to 2011, meaning that Iran is held responsible for 17% of all US deaths in Iraq during that window. “This death toll is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies,” the State Department added, according to Military Times.
Iran, responding to rumors before the White House announcement, has already threatened to retaliate.
“We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action,” Iranian lawmakers said in a statement April 7, 2019, Fox News reported. “So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the [Middle East] region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The State Department says a US government employee working in China suffered “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” that later led to a diagnosis of “mild traumatic brain injury” — resulting in a warning to all US citizens in the country.
The strange incident recalls a similar spate of reports from Cuba, where US officials reported symptoms consistent with a “sonic attack,” or exposure to harmful frequencies.
“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the State Department warned in a health alert. “We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms, and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community.”
The State Department went on to advise: “While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”
Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post’s China correspondent, reported that the State Department confirmed the US worker’s ailment was diagnosed as a mild traumatic brain injury, something US officials in Cuba also experienced.
The Post reports that Chinese and US officials are looking into the matter. Americans working in Cuba suffered permanent hearing loss, severe headaches, loss of balance, brain swelling, and disruption to cognitive functions.
The US originally called the Cuba incidents “sonic attacks” but later backed off that phrasing as medical experts examined the patients and found their symptoms and conditions to be of mysterious origins.
Medical testing revealed the embassy workers in Cuba developed changes to the white-matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, officials told the Associated Press.
But a purposeful attack hasn’t been ruled out as the source of the brain injuries now linked to two countries.
“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury from a directional exposure of undetermined etiology,” a study about the victims in Cuba concluded.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 308th Fighter Squadron was reactivated in a ceremony at Luke Air Force Base, Nov. 30, 2018. The squadron will house the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s and the Royal Danish Air Force’s F-35A Lightning IIs, in a training partnership.
With Lt. Col. Robert Miller assuming command, the fighter squadron is scheduled to begin operations in December 2018.
“It’s bittersweet to leave the 62nd FS, but fortunately I’ll continue to fly and instruct at the 308th FS,” Miller said.
Throughout the next two years, the Dutch and the Danish air forces will be sending their jets to populate the squadron and help Luke AFB’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots.
“The 308th FS is the fourth F-35 squadron at Luke, but the most important part of this activation is that we will be with two partner nations,” said Miller. “In a few weeks, the Dutch will start their F-35 training followed by the Danes.”
Col. Mathew Renbarger, 56th Operations Group commander, passes the 308th Fighter Squadron guidon to Lt. Col. Robert Miller, 308th FS commander, during an assumption of command ceremony, Nov. 30, 2018, at Luke Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)
Before final arrangements were made, Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt, Royal Netherlands Air Force commander, paid Luke AFB a visit. During the visit he was given a tour of the base and of the Academic Training Center where all of the F-35 pilots learn how to fly.
After thorough examination of the training facilities, Dutch air force members were given a walk-through of the new fighter squadron building.
Under Miller’s watch, the 308th FS’s goal is to train as efficiently as the rest of Luke AFB’s fighter squadrons.
“As we stand up the 308th FS we will emulate the 62nd FS nation to the best of our ability,” said Miller. “In time, we’ll challenge to be the best F-35 organization.”
Miller said challenging the status quo is the mindset at Luke AFB.
“The trust that we build at Luke with our partners is critical to our success on the battle field. The opportunity to train, learn and be together is unparalleled elsewhere,” said Miller. “We are changing the way our Air Force and other nations prepare for war.”
Saudi Arabia has been on a buying spree as of late, acquiring a lot of high-end weaponry. Much of it has come from the United States, with a focus on dealing with the threat from Iran. However, the Saudis are also looking elsewhere, including an effort purchase the SA-21 Growler from Russia. But that search could lead to a very surprising conclusion — for the Saudis.
According to a report by Swiss Journal, the Saudis are looking at acquiring a third missile defense system. Their choice: Iron Dome, a system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a defense technology company with origins in Israel — a country that, historically, hasn’t had good relations with Saudi Arabia.
According to Raytheon, an Iron Dome battery consists of a battlefield radar and three or four launchers, each of which carries 20 Tamir missiles. Israel has deployed ten of these batteries to protect its major cities against rocket attacks.
The radar is able to determine whether a rocket will hit or miss a city. If not deemed a threat, the rocket is ignored. If it is a threat, a Tamir missile is fired to intercept. The Tamir has a maximum range of 37 nautical miles and uses electro-optical guidance to home in on its target.
Despite poor relations, Saudi Arabia and Israel do operate a number of weapon systems in common. Both countries operate the MIM-104 Patriot, acquired during and after Operation Desert Storm to counter SS-1 Scud missiles fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. The two countries also are both operators of the F-15C/D Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle.
The Swiss Journal reported that Saudi officials examined the system during an air show in Dubai. The Israelis also recently have offered to work with moderate Arab countries in order to counter the Iranian threat. In the past, Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the map.
The poet Dylan Thomas once wrote “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight…” To many, that means people who have faced death have seen what’s most important in life, but for myriad reasons too many veteran experiences are left out of the history books, lost in the annals of time.
The Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is an amazing medium for the men and women of days gone by to share what those days were like. Those who survived the world wars have mostly gone on to live long, full lives. Given the proper forum, they enjoy looking back and from their recollections important lessons emerge.
Here are some of the best recollections and advice from the AMA forum. While they share their stories, they also share their advice for not going gentle into that good night.
1. Tom, an 88-year-old World War II veteran who received a Purple Heart and helped liberate Rome:
“War is hell. Bring our boys back from the Middle East.”
“The younger generation [who aren’t veterans] has a hard time appreciating the rigors of war because we have an all-volunteer military.”
“We were a generation strained in a very specific way. The depression had a huge influence on my life and still plays a role in who I am. I think people were more prepared for hardship back then than they are today. That being said, some of the service members today have been at war for over ten years. And they are volunteers. We were not tested like that.”
“Just be a simple soldier. Don’t lazy, sleepy or aggressive. Follow the orders of the day.”
“I never met the guards or saw them again, but I forgive them.”
“The worst thing was the death march itself and then the food in the camp. Just rice and salt. We used to try and get the leaves of edible plants and cook it. Some people were so hungry they would sweep up grasshoppers and eat it.”
“I only know that what I fought for was justified.”
“Have plenty of rest, sleep well, and eat everything that is given to you.”
4. Don McQuinn, an 84-year-old Korea and Vietnam Veteran:
“Somebody asked earlier about what did you take away from the Marine Corps. What I learned is that you can stop me, but you can’t beat me. I’ll be back. And when somebody bets on you like that, all the cards on the table are face up. And I had to succeed. There wasn’t any option. Pretty simple.”
“I appreciate the thanks, it was my privilege to serve.”
“The toughest were the Chinese. The nastiest were the North Koreans. The most dogged were the Vietnamese.”
” Vietnam was the hardest. Going away. No definition of ‘the enemy.’ Incredible misunderstanding by the American public and press.”
5. Michael Mirson, 94-year old Soviet soldier, captured by the Nazis, Escaped to the United States:
“I believe in working hard and honesty.”
“In the Soviet army, they were very poor. Very little food, the boots were poor, and the discipline was not good. We walked in the Caucasus Mountains with blisters on your feet. You could barely walk, and had to go so slow. Officers on horseback would come by with a whip and say “comrade, you’re walking too slow, you must walk fast. You must walk fast for this country and for Stalin.” Once someone fought back against an officer, and was shot. This scared us into keep walking, no matter what.”
“I really learned how to survive. I truly learned how to take care of myself and others. I always tried to help my friends. I learned how to come together to help people, and how other people can help you.”
“It just always seems to be the same story, the fighting story. When people lived in caves, they fought with stones. Now they fight with planes and drones.”
6. Hubert Buchanan, Vietnam POW in Hanoi Hilton who returned to Vietnam meet his captor years later:
“In hindsight it was unwise to get involved in Vietnam, but given that time and history it was understandable that the U.S. got involved. As for Afghanistan and Iraq, I think it was a bad idea to get involved at all.”
“He was just a villager who got the credit for capturing me. It’s illogical to go from the particular to the general. For example, I don’t blame the Vietnamese people. If people were bombing my country I might try to capture the bombers.”
“He was very excited to see me, and it turns out he received a certificate from the government that said something like “village hero” … all in all, it was a “war is war” type of encounter.”
When asked if the Vietnamese were skilled fighter pilots: “I was shot down by a Vietnamese fighter pilot. What does that tell you?”
7. Norm, a 97-year-old ANZAC WWII Veteran, Fought at Papua New Guinea:
“I just want to be able to help people and see the smiles on their faces when the job is finished. Having something to do each day keeps me going.”
“Have respect for your elders, be honest, talk to people who have good manners and treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself.”
“I couldn’t understand the Japanese at the time. I was offered to go to Japan after the war but I said no. I couldn’t understand the things that the Japanese had done in the war.”
“It was a matter of “if you didn’t get them, they’d get you”. So I didn’t really sympathize with them.”
“It’s been hard to let go.”
“I hope that all wars are finished. I hope they realize that no one gains from war.”
8. Dick Cole, 98-year-old WWII Air Corps Vet and James Doolittle’s Co-Pilot during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo:
When asked what he wants for his birthday: “More Time.”
“[Jimmy] Doolittle was a great, great man and I am honored that I was able to serve under him.”
“One quick story most people don’t know is that he has a hunting cabin we would all go meet at. He always insisted on doing the dishes.”
“The hardest part of the Doolittle Raid was Looking at that black hole when we had to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.”
“Most memorable part was when my parachute opened.”
“Just to live your life to the fullest. Enjoy it!”
“You get so much advice when you have lived as long as I have.”
“I sometimes think that we are the biggest threat to ourselves because of the foolish things we do. There is no ruler anywhere that has any control over good or evil. They all do what they think is best for them in the long run.”
“Always help people, however you can.”
11. Harry Snyder, a WWII Normandy and Battle of the Bulge Veteran:
“The average German soldier was like the average person. If he was captured, I could talk to him. They seemed like ordinary people you could find anywhere. The SS were the bad guys, the real killers. They were responsible for the death camps and the killing of innocent people. You couldn’t interact with them… you treated them like dirt.”
“She’s a great cook. You can’t go wrong for that, marry a great cook.”
“When we are attacked without provocation, either militarily or by terrorists. Then I think then we are justified to go to war.”
“When the war in Europe ended, we were going to be sent to Japan. Not to occupy, but to invade. Then, President Harry S. Truman dropped the bomb. Thank God for the other Harry. He saved a lot of us from going over there. I didn’t feel bad for the Japanese; I feel they got what they deserved. The President saved a lot of us from getting killed.”
The US Air Force used the results from a 2015 US Army test of commercial magazines to make its decision to replace Army magazines with Magpul’s Gen 3 PMAG, according to Air Force officials.
The Air Force put out guidance in July that all government-issued M16/M4 magazines – including the Army’s new Enhanced Performance Magazine – will be replaced by the Magpul PMAG. The announcement occurred in the “USAF AUTHORIZED SMALL ARMS and LIGHT WEAPONS ACCESSORIES (as of 28 July 17).”
Military.com asked the Air Force how it came to the decision to choose the PMAG, and it sent the following response:
“When pursuing any capability based requirement, and before conducting any tests, the Air Force will first work closely with our joint partners to see if they have conducted any testing,” said Vicki Stein, a spokeswoman for Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.
“In this instance, we utilized the US Army Aberdeen Test Center’s M855A1 Conformance Testing on Commercial Magazines to make our decision.”
Military.com contacted Program Executive Office Soldier for comment on this but has not received a response yet.
In May, the Army announced it was planning to evaluate how well the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines perform using a polymer magazine as part of a Solder Enhancement Program project that was approved in February, according to Army weapons officials at the NDIA’s Armaments Systems Forum.
What is interesting is that the Army test report on commercial magazines that the Air Force used to make its decision is dated Jan. 2015, according to Stein. US Army TACOM didn’t unveil its new Enhanced Performance Magazine until 2016.
The Air Force should be commended for using the Army’s existing test data rather than conducting a redundant test to make its decision.
The question that remains unanswered is why didn’t the Army come to the same conclusion as the Air Force and choose the PMAG when it appears that the service’s own test data shows the PMAG as the top performer.
Soldiers have used PMAGs in their weapons in combat for years because of their proven reliability.
Marine Corps Systems Command in December released a message which authorized the PMAG polymer magazine for use in the M27 infantry automatic rifle as well as in M16A4 rifle and M4 carbine.
Air Force officials did say that the Army Enhanced Magazine is also still authorized for use.
But the Air Force guidance on magazines states that 1005-01-615-5169 (Black) and 1005-01-659-7086 (Tan) Magpul – Gen 3 Polymer Magazine with window will replace 1005-01-630-9508 through attrition. The 1005-01-630-9508 is the Enhanced Performance Magazine (tan mag w/blue follower) the latest US Army magazine.
The PMAG will also replace 1005-01-561-7200 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (tan follower) and 1005-00-921-5004 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (green follower), the document states.
“They are in dark corners of the world and even their training is very dangerous,” Jen Paquette, executive director of the Green Beret Foundation, wrote on Facebook.
Staff. Sgt. David Whitcher, 30, died Wednesday during a dive training exercise off the coast of Key West, Florida, according to US Army Special Operations Command. He was previously assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
On Thursday, Capt. Andrew Byers, 30, and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer, 34, were killed during a firefight with Taliban forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Both were assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, Colorado.
Three other soldiers with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky 5th Special Forces Group were killed while entering a military base in Jordan on Friday. The soldiers, Staff Sergeants Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, and James F. Moriarty, 27, were apparently fired upon by Jordanian security forces at the gate to Prince Faisal Air Base, where they were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
All six of those deaths are under investigation, the Army said.
“When they stopped us on the road, they lined us up, they set up machine guns across from us and I thought this is the end,” recalled former U.S. Army Cpl. Raymond Mullin, who served as a medic with Task Force Smith, the first U.S. Army ground maneuver unit to enter combat in the Korean War.
The city of Osan hosted its 68th TF Smith Memorial Ceremony, July 6, 2018, at the city’s UN Forces First Battle Memorial, to honor the bravery and sacrifices made by the members of the task force. Attendees included: Republic of Korea Lt. Gen. Yoon Seung Kook, who was a captain when he served as ROK liaison officer to TF Smith, former U.S. Army Cpl. William Coe, a radio operator, and Mullin. Among the distinguished guests in attendance were: ROK Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Pi Woo-Jin; U.S. Army Brigadier Gen. Andrew Juknelis, operational chief of staff, Eighth Army; Governor of Gyeonggi Province Lee Jae-myung; and Mayor of Osan City Kwak Sang-wook.
Richard Salazar shares photos of his father, and Task Force Smith member, Sgt. Richard Salazar, Sr., with Osan City Mayor Kwak Sang-wook at the 68th TF Smith Memorial ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
Mullin spent 37 months as a prisoner of war, one of 82 captured by North Korean forces in the first day of the first battle involving a U.S. unit sent to Korea under a United Nations mandate. Mullin was emblematic of those selected to fill the ranks of TF Smith, young and lacking combat experience. He had been at Camp Wood, Japan, for just 10 days working at a clinical laboratory when he arrived in Korea, July 1, 1950. Like most of the nearly 500 soldiers arriving from Japan, Mullin said he had no combat training since Basic Training.
Political, military and civic leaders, veterans of the Korean War, soldiers and guests, honor the flags of the Republic of Korea and the U.S. during the playing of the two nations’ national anthems at the 68th TF Smith Memorial Ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
The Korean War began June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded and occupied the capital city of Seoul. The UN, led by the U.S., mustered a makeshift unit of soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Japan-based 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, and a battery from the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, 24th Infantry Division. The task force, named after its commander, Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith, left Japan on the morning of July 1, 1950.
The UN Forces First Battle Memorial served as the setting for the 68th anniversary of the first battle of the war involving U.S. Soldiers.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
Upon their arrival, TF Smith was given the mission to take up positions to delay the North’s advance as far north as possible. Smith decided two hills overlooking a major north-south highway in Osan, provided an ideal position to carry out their mission. That is where they dug in, July 4.
Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi Province, addresses attendees of the 68th Task Force Smith Memorial Ceremony,
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
The following morning, a North Korean force, about 5,000 strong, led by Soviet-made tanks, were soon observed rumbling toward Osan. TF Smith opened fire, initially with artillery, followed by anti-tank rockets. Although they were able to hold their lines for nearly three hours, it soon became apparent TF Smith lacked the necessary firepower to survive against the heavily armed formation in front of them.
Brigadier Gen. Andrew Juknelis, operational Chief of Staff, Eighth Army, addresses attendees of the 68th Task Force Smith Memorial Ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
Outflanked and severely low on ammunition, Smith ordered his men to fall back to a second defensive line at Pyongtaek and Cheonan to join other units of the 24th Inf. Div. Only a little more than fifty percent of the task force safely made it to friendly lines. In what is now known as the Battle of Osan, TF Smith suffered 60 dead, 21 wounded and 82 captured, 32 of whom died in captivity. According to official accounts, the casualty counts for the North Koreans were estimated at 42 dead, 85 wounded. Ultimately, though, the North Koreans were delayed approximately seven hours.
U.S. Army Corporals Raymond Mellin and William Coe, members of Task Force Smith, acknowledge attendees of the 68th Task Force Smith Memorial Ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
In his remarks to attendees, Juknelis highlighted the bravery of TF Smith against overwhelming odds.
“Outnumbered nearly 10 to 1, and equipped with antiquated weapons left over from World War II, TF Smith valiantly held their position in the face of an overwhelming force,” Juknelis said. “TF Smith’s dedication to duty and country in the face of such overwhelming odds laid the foundation of service and courage that enabled the Republic of Korea-US alliance to ultimately reclaim this side of the peninsula for South Korea.”
Osan City Mayor Kwak Sang-Wook places a flower at the Task Force Smith Memorial.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
One U.S. Army unit currently stationed at nearby Suwon Air Base attended the ceremony as a leader development opportunity to learn about the important history of TF Smith and its heroic stand against the invading forces from the North. For one soldier, learning about the Korean War while serving in Korea, is very personal. Both of his grandfathers fought in the Korean War as ROK soldiers.
Cpl. William Coe, a veteran of the Korean War and a member of Task Force Smith, places a flower at the TF Smith memorial.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
“This event means a lot to me,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Yi Jae, a Korean-American who serves as a vehicle mechanic with F Company, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 35th ADA Brigade. “I feel like I am continuing their service, their legacy, their sacrifices.”
Lt. Col. Jeff Slown and Command Sgt. Major Wilfredo Suarez, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade deputy commander and command sergeant major, respectively, approach the Task Force Smith memorial with a flower.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
The ceremony concluded with attendees placing white flowers at the base of the UN Forces First Battle Memorial to pay respect to the members of TF Smith for their sacrifices. The City of Osan is preparing to build a Peace Park encompassing the memorial and will serve as a place for visitors to discover the history of the site, as well as quietly reflect on the sacrifices made there. Completion of the park is scheduled for July 2019, and it is part of the city’s firm intention to never forget the soldiers who came to South Korea willing to lay down their lives in its defense.
Lt. Col. Matthew Walker and Command Sgt. Major Gene Harding, commander and command sergeant major, respectively, of 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 35th ADA Brigade, places flowers at the Task Force Smith Memorial.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot)
“How could we even imagine the noblest sacrifice of those who came to an unknown land to fight without adequate combat equipment,” said ROK Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Pi Woo-jin. “Without the sacrifice and contributions of the UN Forces, such as Task Force Smith, today’s Republic of Korea, with its miraculous industrialization and remarkable democratization, would never exist. We will never forget their sacrifices.”
A fourth soldier, who had been missing in Niger for two days, was found dead on Oct. 6, officials said. According to reports, several Nigerien troops were also killed or wounded.
News of the fourth soldier makes Oct. 4 the deadliest day for deployed Fort Bragg soldiers since July 14, 2010, when seven soldiers were killed in two incidents in Afghanistan.
Three of the slain American soldiers were identified Oct. 6 as Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. The fourth soldier had not been identified as of Oct. 6.
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.
Two US service members were also wounded in the attack. They were evacuated in stable condition to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, officials said.
The attack on US and Nigerien forces occurred in southwest Niger, approximately 120 miles north of the capital of Niamey.
According to US Africa Command, which is based in Germany, the Special Forces soldiers were providing advice and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terrorism operations.
US troops have been in West Africa for years, bolstering the defense capabilities of partner nations while combating terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The 3rd Special Forces Group has played a large role in the region since 2015, when the group refocused its efforts to Africa after more than a decade of constant deployments to Afghanistan.
A spokesman for US Army Special Operations Command said the incident is under investigation.
Black, a Special Forces medical sergeant, and Wright, a Special Forces engineer sergeant, were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Johnson, who served as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, was assigned to the Group Support Battalion.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with this soldier’s family as we mourn the loss of this dedicated Green Beret,” Lt. Col. David Painter, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, said Oct. 6. “Staff Sgt. Black is loved by so many in our battalion, and his life was spent in service to his family, his friends, his team, and his country.”
Painter said Wright was also an exceptional Green Beret, “a cherished teammate and devoted soldier.”
“Dustin’s service to 3rd Special Forces Group speaks to his level of dedication, courage, and commitment to something greater than himself,” Painter said. “We are focused on caring for the Wright family during this difficult period.”
Lt. Col. Megan Brogden, the commander of the Group Support Battalion, said Johnson was an exceptional soldier.
“We, as a nation, are fortunate to have men like Jeremiah,” she said. “He not only represented what we should all aspire to be, but he lived it. His loss is a great blow and he will be missed and mourned by this unit.”
Black enlisted in the Army in October 2009 and his awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge — Sharpshooter with Rifle.
Wright enlisted in July 2012. His awards and decorations include the Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, and Parachutist Badge.
Johnson enlisted in October 2007 and his awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, three Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Ribbon, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge — Expert with Pistol and Rifle.
According to reports, Nigerien military leaders said a patrol of defense and security forces and American partners were near the border of Mali when they were ambushed by a group with a dozen vehicles and about 20 motorcycles.
On Oct. 4, chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said this was the first time American forces had been killed and wounded in combat in Niger.
White and the director of the Joint Staff, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, briefed members of the media on the attack. They stressed that American troops were in a support role, but McKenzie said that role can be dangerous.
“I think clearly there’s risk for our forces in Niger,” he said.
McKenzie said efforts to combat violent extremists in Africa were part of a global campaign against terrorism.
He said that with success in other parts of the world — namely Iraq and Syria — it is inevitable that terrorists will seek out safe haven in other countries.
“They tried to go to Libya; it didn’t work out real well… And I don’t want to make Libya into a model success story, but they’ve been unable to establish themselves there,” McKenzie said.
The general said American forces would continue to work with forces in Niger and neighboring countries to increase their military capabilities and stop terrorists from taking root.
But he cautioned against concluding that the Niger attack showed a growing foothold for terrorist groups.
“I think that it does reflect the fact, though, that we’re having enormous success against the core, the very heart of this movement,” McKenzie said. “But we’re going to be operating across the surface of the entire globe, for quite a while to complete these operations. This is simply a manifestation of that.”
Neither White nor McKenzie would comment on the medical support available to the US troops, but 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers have previously prepared for deployments to Africa under the assumption that such support would not be close by.
Their training in recent years has included trips to Duke University Medical Center and other medical facilities to learn techniques that can support them in austere environments away from modern medical centers.
McKenzie said the military was constantly evaluating the type of support deployed troops need.
“Anytime we deploy full forces globally, we will look very hard at the enablers that need to be in place in order to provide security for them,” he said. “And that ranges from the ability to pull them out if they are injured, to the ability to reinforce them at the point of a fight.”
In statements, elected leaders sent their condolences to the friends and families of the fallen soldiers.
Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, said the sacrifices of the three soldiers identified Oct. 6 would not be forgotten.
“This is a tragic reminder of the dangers facing our brave service members as they combat terrorism across the globe to keep our country safe,” he said.
Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican whose district includes Fort Bragg, said Fort Bragg and Special Forces communities were mourning for their comrades.
“We pray they feel God’s comfort and know we are standing with them and support them — always,” Hudson said. “These elite soldiers have served in the most dangerous corners of the world, always ready and willing to put country before self. We are grateful for their service and will strive to honor their sacrifice.”
The 3rd Special Forces Group has supplied a steady rotation of troops to Africa since 2015 and is also at the helm of a lieutenant colonel-level command based in North and West Africa.
The group’s soldiers are focused on a 12-nation area of operations that includes Libya, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
Officials with the group have said the Special Forces soldiers are “all in” on the Africa mission and committed to helping partner nations solve problems, not only with terrorism, but also poaching, illegal drugs, and human trafficking.
Teams of Special Forces soldiers, known as Operational Detachment Alphas, or A-teams, often work closely with military partners as well as US Department of State and US AID, among others.
Earlier this year, Painter, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, told The Fayetteville Observer that the Africa mission was different from what the soldiers experienced in Afghanistan, but not without risks.
“It can potentially be equally as dangerous but much less known,” Painter said of working in Africa. “None of these are easy missions.”
Quoting Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, then-commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, Painter said “The US is not at war in Africa, but make no mistake, the Africans are in many places.”
Former Army Ranger and West Point grad Matthew ‘Griff’ Griffin isn’t your average vet entrepreneur. He came up with the notion of building something of value when he was serving in Afghanistan during the early phases of the war, way before there was much of a logistics footprint in place. He saw that the Afghan people were in need of more than protection from the Taliban. They needed basic goods and services.
“I saw Afghanistan as a place to leverage the power of small business owners making a difference,” Griff said. “The region could benefit from more micro loans and fewer armored vehicles.”
When Griff left active duty he returned to Kabul doing some clinic work, but beyond that he wanted to find a way to assist with the country’s stability by creating a manufacturing base, starting with a single factory he stumbled across on the east side of the capital. The factory had the infrastructure; it was just a matter of what to manufacture.
As he was leaving the factory he found a flip flop on the floor — it was unique and a little funky, the kind of design Griff thought might resonate with fashion-minded millennials. He held it up and asked the factory manager if he could make them, and the Afghan local said sure. Combat Flip Flops was born.
Griff and his brother procured the materials from a far eastern supplier and got everything set up, but they’d no sooner returned to the U.S. than they were informed that the factory was shutting down — a casualty of the volatile socio-economic climate of Afghanistan. But the brothers were undeterred, plus they had a lot of money wrapped up in the materials sitting in the factory in Kabul.
Without any U.S. military assistance — the most effective way to operate, according to Griff — they went back in on a private spec ops mission of sorts, one designed to salvage what they could from their investment and work that had been accomplished already.
“We rented a ‘Bongo’ truck and packed the inventory of flip flops into bags designed to hold opium,” Griff said. “We were riding around the streets of Kabul trying to look inconspicuous, two white guys sitting on a pile of opium bags.”
They stored the 2,000-some pairs of flip flops in a warehouse on the outskirts of Kabul, and as they did a closer inspection of their wares they realized that the quality was such that they couldn’t be sold. They wound up giving all of them away to needy Afghans, which was better than nothing but not up to the standards of Griff’s vision.
They found another factory, and once again secured a supplier (and paid for it using Griff’s credit card), and this time failure came even faster and the factory closed down before any materials for the order of 4,000 pairs had been shipped. It was time for a more dramatic pivot in the business plan.
“We wound up taking the guerrilla manufacturing route and assembling the sandals in my garage in Washington state,” Griff said.
The company’s potential big break came in the form of a phone call from one of the producers at ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV show. Griff and a couple of his co-workers will appear on the episode scheduled to air on February 5. (Check your local listings.)
“We’re stoked to bring the Combat Flip Flops mission to the tank,” Griff’ said. “Every Shark has the ability to expand the mission, inspire new recruits to join the Unarmed Forces, and manufacture peace through trade. Over the past few years, we’ve survived deadly encounters to create an opportunity like this. Attack Dogs. Raging Bulls. If we need to jump in the water with Sharks, then it’s time to grab the mask and fins.”
“We’ve all seen and heard Shark Tank success stories,” Donald Lee, Combat Flip Flops’ CMO and co-founder, added. “We set our minds to getting on the show and in true Ranger fashion, we accomplished the objective. We hope this is the catalyst our company needs to provide large scale, peaceful, sustainable change in areas of conflict.”
In 2015, Combat Flip Flops’ sales increased 150 percent over the previous year. In keeping with Griff’s original corporate vision, the company donated funds for schools to educate Afghan girls and cleared 1,533 square meters of land mines in Laos, which keeps the local population — especially children — safer.
Griff has leveraged his service academy pedigree and military experience in incredibly productive ways. His entrepreneurial sense and — even more importantly — his worldview defies most veteran stereotypes and associated bogus narratives. His outlook and drive are distinctly that of the Post 9-11 warfighter — “the next greatest generation.”
Combat Flip Flop’s mission statement captures it:
To create peaceful, forward-thinking opportunities for self-determined entrepreneurs affected by conflict. Our willingness to take bold risks, community connection, and distinct designs communicate, “Business, Not Bullets”– flipping the view on how wars are won. Through persistence, respect, and creativity, we empower the mindful consumer to manufacture peace through trade.