Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall

Savannah VanHook celebrated her fourth birthday Jan. 13, 2019, by visiting Claire’s at the Fashion Place mall, Murray, Utah, with her parents to pierce her ears — something she’s been asking her mother and father for over five months. It stung, but she seemed proud of her freshly-pierced ears. The family headed to the food court when something entirely different pierced her ears: The sound of four gunshots ringing throughout the mall.


Savannah’s father, Sgt. Marshall VanHook, a recruiter with the Herriman U.S. Army Recruiting Station, recognized the sound immediately and directed his daughter and wife, Sarah, into a T-Mobile store to take cover.

Vanhook then ran toward the commotion.

“I saw the flash, and I heard the shots. I knew immediately what it was; it’s very distinctive,” recalled Vanhook. “My first response was to make sure my family was taken care of … and then it was just a matter of ‘I need to stop this before it gets to my family,’ so I took off. I ran towards where I thought the threat was at. While I was running there really were no thoughts other than ‘take care of business.'”

Vanhook ran through the mall and made his way outside in an attempt to see the shooter to get a description, he explained.

“I got out to the parking lot and it was a bit of chaos, people were running and I had no idea where they went,” he said. “I just came back and that’s where I saw the two victims.”

The two victims, an adult male and adult female, were starting to fall to the ground. He ended his search for the gunmen and jumped into action to assist saving lives.

“It was just a matter of getting to work,” said Vanhook.

A mobile phone video from a fellow shoppers captured his next actions. VanHook removed his belt and created a makeshift tourniquet above the woman’s visible gunshot wound. Keeping a calm disposition, he directed an observer to use her scarf to apply direct pressure to the leg injury while he moved on to assess the man’s condition.

Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah

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Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah

Dramatic footage of two victims being treated by bystanders following a shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah.

Vanhook has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for nine years. Before joining the Herriman recruiting team four months ago, he served as a civil affairs specialist with the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade. There, he received first aid response training, including Combat Lifesaver in 2014.

“Because of the Army, it instilled something in me to react in danger and not to flee from it,” explained VanHook.

Combat Lifesaver Course is the next level of first aid training after Army Basic Training Course. It provides in-depth training on responding to arterial bleeding, blocked airways, trauma, chest wounds and other battlefield injuries. The course was presented as realistically as possible, making it effective and easier to apply in a real scenario, explained VanHook.

“You go over [the training] and over it. It’s just a matter of muscle memory,” he said. “There really wasn’t thought. It was action.”

Although VanHook doesn’t consider himself a hero, his leaders feel he has represented himself and the Army well.

“His actions definitely, I think, were heroic,” said Lt. Col. Carl D. Whitman, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion (Salt Lake City). “Most people don’t normally run to the sound of the guns, if you will… but he’s a soldier and went into action as soldiers do. We’re well-trained. His training and that mindset took over.”

“A lot of folks out there may call him or other soldiers that do that a hero, but I think those of us in uniform don’t see ourselves that way, and I know he doesn’t, but definitely his actions were heroic,” Whitman said. “His actions resulted in saving a couple people’s lives.”

VanHook explained after everything that occurred, his family is doing well but it all seems surreal.

“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. “It makes me angry. I’m a little angry that something like that happened. It was my daughter’s birthday and it kind of messed it up. We had plans that night and because of the incident, it kind of got put on hold.”

He explained his wife was scared to leave the house following the shooting, but now they are working together to get back to normal life. His daughter Savannah, too young to realize the weight of the incident, he said, described the evening as “not how she wanted to spend her birthday.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia swears a cloud of radioactive pollution is not a nuclear accident

Russia’s meteorological service has indicated that it measured “extremely high” concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 (Ru-106) in the southern Urals in late September, but then contradicted itself and accused environmental-protection organizations of raising a false alarm in order to attract more funding.


The conflicting statements from Rosgidromet on November 21 came weeks after reports of a radioactive cloud drifting westward from Russia first appeared in Europe, a delay that government critics said was reminiscent of the Soviet government’s initial silence about the Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant disaster in 1986.

The French nuclear-safety agency said on November 9 that a cloud of radioactive pollution detected over Europe in the last week of September probably came from a facility — such as a nuclear-fuel-treatment site or center for radioactive medicine — in Russia or Kazakhstan. Neither of the two former Soviet republics has acknowledged any accident.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
Irradiated Soviet military equipment lies dormant near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In one report on its website, Rosgidromet — the state agency that monitors air and water pollution — said that it measured a concentration of Ru-106 at nearly 986 times normal levels at the Argayash weather station in the Chelyabinsk region in late September and early October. A table that was part of the report referred to that as “extremely high contamination.”

At the Novogorny meteorological station, in the same region in the southern Urals, levels were 440 times those of the previous month, the report said.

separate statement posted later, however, said that Ru-106 levels qualifying as “extremely high contamination” had not been detected.

It said, using bold type for emphasis, that concentrations of Ru-106 were “several times lower” than the “permissible” level.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
(Photo: Russian Ministry of Defence)

It also said that the reason levels were hundreds of times higher than in the previous monitoring periods was that Ru-106 had been “absent” from the earlier findings.

Rosgidromet said that the fact that it found “even negligible concentrations of radioactive isotopes” was evidence of the “high effectiveness” of its monitoring methods.

It asserted that the “heightened attention” paid to the Ru-106 levels by “certain environmental-protection organizations” was an effort to “increase their importance in the eyes of society” at a time when “their budgets for the next year are being drafted.”

Environmental activist group Greenpeace said in a statement that it will petition the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office to open an inquiry into “possible concealment of a radiation accident” and check whether public health was sufficiently protected.

Speaking to journalists, Rosgidromet chief Maksim Yakovenko said that the levels of Ru-106 recorded in Russia posed no danger to human health as they are “hundreds of thousands of times lower than the allowed maximum.”

Yakovenko added that Rosgidromet did not try to find the source of the increased radiation “because in Romania the level of the wastes concentration was 1.5-2 times higher than in Russia, and in Poland and Ukraine it was the same.”

Also Read: This is one of the creepiest military hardware graveyards in the world

The Russian monitoring agency did not point to any specific potential source of the pollution.

The Argayash station is about 30 kilometers from the Mayak nuclear facility, which reprocesses nuclear fuel and produces radioactive material for industrial and research purposes.

The Mayak plant, which is under the umbrella of Russia’s nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, said that the contamination “has nothing to do” with its activities and that it had not produced Ru-106 for years.

In 1957, the facility was the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, and nearby residents say the government is still paying little attention to their plight 60 years later.

Rosatom said there were no radiation leaks from its facilities that could increase the level of the radioactive isotope in the atmosphere.

Yevgeny Savchenko, the Chelyabinsk region’s minister of public security, said that the regional administration received no official information about dangerous levels of radiation in September.

“When the media got hysterical about some accident and cloud of ruthenium-106, we asked for explanations” from Rosgidromet and Rosatom, Savchenko wrote on Facebook.

The November 9 report from France’s Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) said that ruthenium-106 had been detected in France between September 27 and October 13. Several other nuclear-safety institutes in Europe had measured high levels of the radioactive nuclide.

The IRSN statement said it could not accurately locate the release of Ru-106 but, based on weather patterns, it most likely originated south of the Ural Mountains, between the Urals and the Volga River.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
The Ural Mountains, which stretch through Russia into Kazakhstan, likely contain the location of the Ru-106 leak. (Image WATM)

This could indicate Russia or possibly Kazakhstan as the site of the origin of the cloud, IRSN Director Jean-Marc Peres said.

IRSN ruled out an accident in a nuclear reactor, saying it was likely a leak at a nuclear-fuel-treatment site or center for radioactive medicine.

Ruthenium-106 does not occur naturally. It is a product of splitting atoms in a reactor, and is also used in medical treatments.

In mid-October in response to the earliest European reports about the radioactive cloud, Rosatom issued a statement quoted by Russian media outlets as saying that “in samples tested from September 25 to October 7, including in the southern Urals, no trace of ruthenium-106 was found, except in St. Petersburg.”

Rosatom later said in response to the French agency’s report that “radiation around all facilities of Russian nuclear infrastructure are within the norm and are at the level of background radiation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban for five years after walking off his post in Afghanistan, is expected to plead guilty on Monday during a military hearing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.


His decision to plead guilty and avoid trial was reported earlier this month and looks likely to close the eight-year saga that began in June 2009, when the then-23-year-old private first class disappeared from his post near the Afghan border with Pakistan after five months in the country.

In an interview filmed last year by a British filmmaker and obtained by ABC news, Bergdahl said that he didn’t think it was possible for him to get a fair trial under President Donald Trump, who made Bergdahl a target during his campaign.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
White House photo.

“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said at a Las Vegas rally in 2015. “You know in the old days — Bing. Bong,” Trump said while mimicking firing a rifle. “When we were strong.”

Related: Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl plans to plead guilty to desertion

“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said in the interview. “The people who want to hang me, you’re never going to convince those people.”

According to Bergdahl’s lawyers, Trump referred to Bergdahl as a traitor at least 45 timesduring the campaign, and they argued those comments would unfairly influence the case, filing an unsuccessful motion to dismiss in January.

Bergdahl’s lawyers were also prevented from asking potential jurors if they voted for Trump. In August, Bergdahl decided to face trial in front of a judge alone, rather than a jury.

Bergdahl was immediately captured after leaving his post and held for five years by the Haqqani network. Videos of him in captivity were released by the Taliban, and the US monitored him using drones, spies, and satellites.

Also read: This Navy SEAL was wounded during the frantic search for Bowe Bergdahl

Washington also pursued behind-the-scenes negotiations to get his release, and in May 2014 he was given to US special forces in exchange for five Taliban detainees who were held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Bergdahl has said he left his post in order to draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit and its leadership. An Army Sanity Board Evaluation found that he suffered from schizotypal personality disorder.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
Bowe Berghdal.

The nature of Bergdahl’s capture and release led to debate over whether the trade was worth it and about whether he was a hero or deserter. Some soldiers held Bergdahl responsible for wounds they suffered during the search for him. An Army judge later ruled that testimony from troops harmed during the search would be allowed, strengthening the prosecutor’s case.

US officials have described Bergdahl’s treatment in captivity as the worst case of prisoner abuse since the Vietnam War, with his captors beating him and locking him in a small cage for extended periods of time.

In the interview, Bergdahl — who twice attempted to escape his captors — said he wanted to fight the “false narrative” put out by conservative media portraying him as a traitor and jihadi sympathizer. He was not charged with any crime related to helping the enemy.

“You know, it’s just insulting frankly,” Bergdahl told the interviewer. “It’s very insulting, the idea that they would think I did that.”

Sentencing will start on October 23, according to an Associated Press report published earlier this month.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new helicopter design looks like an ‘Avatar’ prop

The Army’s working hard to fulfill six big modernization efforts including a new utility helicopter to replace the UH-60. But now the Army has signaled it may need a new scout helicopter first, and a small design firm has a bold pitch for the program that looks like it’s been lifted out of a James Cameron movie but could be the future of Army aviation.


Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall

The design firm AVX has pitched to the military before, but you’re probably not familiar with their work. That’s because they don’t have a full aircraft to their credit or any big programs that everyone would recognize. But they’ve been quietly working to make military aviation better, winning maintenance contracts and bids to increase fuel efficiency.

And their work in the fuel efficiency space led them to propose a fairly radical redesign of the helicopter. Right now, the “traditional” helicopter design calls for one main rotor that generates lift and a tail, “anti-torque” rotor that keeps the bird pointed in the right direction. It’s the design at work on the Apache, the MH-6 Little Bird, the Lakota, and lots more.

But AVX wants to see more use of “coaxial” designs where the main rotor has two discs instead of one. They spin in opposite directions, stabilizing the helicopter without the need for a tail rotor. These coaxial designs are typically more efficient, and AVX wants to combine that with two ducted fans for propulsion, allowing for a helicopter that’s safer, faster, and more efficient.

AVX tried to get the Army to adopt these changes when it was looking to upgrade the OH-58 scout helicopter. The Army was looking to overhaul the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, and AVX felt certain that giving it a coaxial rotor and two ducted fans would give the helicopter increased endurance, lift capability, cruise speed, time on station and range.

The Army ended up retiring the OH-58 instead of going through an overhaul, but that left it with no dedicated scout helicopter. Right now, the AH-64 Apache is switch hitting, serving as a scout helicopter and an attack helicopter. But Apaches are more expensive per flight hour, heavier, and require highly specialized pilots that the Army is already short on.

Getting a new scout helicopter would alleviate a few of these problems. But AVX isn’t as large or as experienced an aviation company as Bell, Boeing, Lockheed, or other companies that have produced rotary platforms for the Army. So AVX has partnered with L3 Technologies, another company experienced in supporting Army aviation.

And the aircraft these companies are pitching to the Army for the new scout helicopter? You guessed it: Coaxial rotor blade for lift and two ducted fans for propulsion. As an added bonus for efficiency, there are two stubby wings that will generate significant lift at high speeds.

It won’t have the ducted main rotors of the Aerospatiale SA-2 Samson from Avatar, but it’s easy to see how you get from AVX’s proposal for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft to something like the SA-2.

Now, it’s far from certain that AVX will get selected by the Army. The Army wants to be buying and fielding the birds by 2024, an aggressive timetable that a small company will struggle to meet. And it wants to buy the aircraft for million apiece flyaway cost, meaning there won’t be a lot of room in the budget for inefficiencies and screwups. So, the Army may prefer a more experienced manufacturer.

But there are early elements of the design that signal a possible AVX advantage. First, despite all the tech required to make those coaxial blades and ducted fans work, the technologies are fairly proven and don’t add a whole lot to cost. Also, the program has ambitious requirements for speed, size of the aircraft, and agility, and the AVX design fits the bill if it makes it through selection and manufacturing process without any big compromises.

So the next helicopter looking over your shoulder in battle might just look like a science fiction aircraft, but don’t expect Michelle Rodriquez to be flying it. She’ll most likely be busy with Fast and the Furious 14.

Articles

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

The House Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony June 7  that was both encouraging and disturbing about PTSD programs and allegations that some vets are faking symptoms to get a disability check.


The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly expanded its treatment programs for mental health problems overall, and for post-traumatic stress disorder in particular, said Dr. Harold Kudler, acting assistant deputy under secretary for Patient Care Services at the VA.

In fiscal 2016, the VA provided mental health treatment to 1.6 million veterans, up from 900,000 in 2006, Kudler said. Of the overall figure, 583,000 “received state-of-the-art treatment for PTSD,” including 178,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.

Kudler said the number of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn veterans receiving VA treatment for PTSD has doubled since 2010, while VA services for them have increased by 50 percent.

In addition, the VA is increasingly open to alternative treatments for PTSD, including the use of hyperbaric chambers and yoga, but an Army veteran who went through VA treatment for PTSD said the expansion and outreach leave the program open to scams by veterans looking to get a disability check.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
A Veterans Affairs benefit advisor briefs 910th Airlift Wing reservists on their VA benefits following a long-term deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)

Brendan O’Byrne, a sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade who served a 15-month tour in the remote Korengal valley of eastern Afghanistan, told the committee he was overwhelmed by “crippling anxiety, blinding anger” compounded by drinking when he left the service in 2008.

After four years, he was given a 70-percent disability rating for PTSD and was immediately advised by administrators and other veterans to push for 100 percent to boost his check, O’Byrne said.

“Now, I don’t know if they saw something that I didn’t but, in my eyes, I was not 100 percent disabled and told them that,” O’Byrne said. But they continued to press him to go for a higher rating. His arguments for a lower rating went nowhere, he said.

In VA group counseling sessions, “I realized the sad truth about a portion of the veterans there — they were scammers, seeking a higher rating without a real trauma. This was proven when I overheard one vet say to another that he had to ‘pay the bills’ and how he ‘was hoping this in-patient was enough for a 100-percent rating.’ I vowed never to participate in group counseling through the VA again,” O’Byrne said.

“When there is money to gain, there will be fraud,” he said. “The VA is no different. Veterans are no different. In the noble efforts to help veterans and clear the backlog of VA claims, we allowed a lot of fraud into the system, and it is pushing away the veterans with real trauma and real PTSD.”

Committee members, who are accustomed to hearing allegations of fraud and waste within the VA but rarely about scamming by a veteran, did not directly challenge O’Byrne’s allegations, but Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., told him he was unique. “That’s the first I’ve ever heard of a vet wanting to reduce the amount of benefits they’re receiving,” Bost said.

O’Byrne was a central figure in the book “War” by author Sebastian Junger, who also testified at the hearing on “Overcoming PTSD: Assessing VA’s Efforts to Promote Wellness and Healing.”

Junger said society must share the blame for the prevalence of PTSD. “Many of our vets seem to be suffering from something other than trauma reaction. One possible explanation for their psychological troubles is that — whether they experience combat or not — transitioning from the kind of close communal life of a platoon to the alienation of modern society is extremely difficult.”

Then there is politics. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause, and that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity,” Junger said.

“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was ‘not their president,’ they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he said.

“And when Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama — the commander-in-chief — was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” Junger said. “For the sake of our military personnel — if not for the sake of our democracy — such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party.”

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
U.S. Air Force illustration by Alex Pena

The allegation that some veterans are bilking PTSD programs is not a major concern for Zach Iscol, a Marine captain who fought in Fallujah and now is executive director of the non-profit Headstrong Project.

“If there are people taking advantage of us, that’s OK, because we have a bigger mission,” Iscol said, but he also noted that Headstrong does not give out disability payments.

In partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the project’s goal is to provide free assistance with experienced clinicians to post-9/11 veterans for a range of problems, from PTSD to addiction and anger management.

Iscol said Headstrong currently has about 200 active clients, and “on average it costs less than $5,000 to treat a vet.” He cautioned there are no panaceas for treating PTSD, and “there’s no simple app that will solve this problem. I don’t think you can design a one-size-fits-all for mental health.”

The witnesses and committee members agreed that PTSD is treatable, but disagreed over the types and availability of treatment programs and whether the VA is adequately funded to provide them or should rely more on non-profits.

The issue of the estimated 20 suicides by veterans daily came up briefly when Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., a retired Marine lieutenant general, questioned Kudler on VA programs to bring down the rate.

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made combating veteran suicides a major priority and has focused on making treatment available for veterans with less than honorable discharges.

Kudler said there is a “counter-intuitive” involved in addressing the veteran suicide problem. About 14 of the 20 daily suicides involve veterans who never deployed and experienced combat trauma, he said. “It would be premature to say we know why.”

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the injury that Jodies everywhere should fear

We’re all familiar with the story of Joe D. Grinder, right? Joe the Grinder was a fictional ladies’ man who seduced the wives of hard-working men, prisoners, and soldiers while the husbands were away. The character dates back to the 1930s, and is a staple of the military where he’s known as “Jody.” Turns out, there’s an injury named for jerks exactly like that.


It’s known as either the “Lover’s Fracture” or the “Don Juan Fracture.” And it’s so named because if you jump out of a second- or third-story window because the spouse of your lover just got home, you’re probably going to suffer the fracture yourself.

It’s a break of the heel bone, specifically the calcaneus. It’s diagnosed with X-rays, but symptoms include pain, bruising, and trouble walking. But best-case scenario when we’re talking about a recently active Jody, the fracture commonly happens at the same time as fractures in the hips and backs.

So, yeah, Jody’s gonna have a lot of trouble walking when his heel, hips, and back are all fractured at the same time.

Usually, we don’t root for other people to be severely injured. But we’re willing to make exceptions when it comes to Jody. Seriously, military marriages have enough stress without some jerk flying circles over them like vultures, waiting for deployments or other stress.

No one needs Jody around. And if he wanted healthy heels, he should have learned to do a parachute landing fall or dated single women. When a stranger sleeps with paratroopers’ wives, he should learn to jump like one. And that goes for female Jodies as much as the male ones. And while we’re not rooting for anyone to inflict physical violence on someone else outside of combat, a 10- or 20-foot fall is likely safer than being captured by an irate Marine. Or soldier, sailor, airman, or Coastie.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is decommissioning the USS Bonhomme Richard

On November 30, 2020, the Navy announced the decision to decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). The Wasp-class amphibious ship suffered extensive damage during a fire while in port in July. The decision follows an extensive assessment of the ship after the fire.

As a landing helicopter deck amphibious assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard was an integral part of the Navy-Marine Corps team. She was capable of supporting a wide range of aircraft including the SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk, UH-1Y Venom, CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, AV-8B Harrier, MV-22B Osprey, and the new F-35B Lightning II. Her well deck also allowed her to support landing craft like LCACs, LCUs and LCMs.

The Bonhomme Richard was commissioned on August 15, 1998. From January 24 to July 24, 2000, she made the first WESTPAC deployment of any U.S. Navy vessel in the new millennium. The next year, she began her participation in the War on Terror with a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) conducts air operations off the coast of Australia (U.S. Navy)

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bonhomme Richard provided critical support to Marine Corps operations. She offloaded Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines in Kuwait and went on to launch 547 combat sorties. Marine Attack Squadrons VMA-211 and VMA-311 delivered more than 175,000 pounds of ordnance launching from Bonhomme Richard‘s deck.

Additionally, the ship assisted in humanitarian operations. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the Bonhomme Richard was detached from Operation Iraqi Freedom and sailed for Sri Lanka. The ship helped to airlift relief supplies to Sumatra, Indonesia. Following a port visit to Guam, the ship returned to the Indian Ocean. Helicopters from the Bonhomme Richard flew medical supplies and personnel into Indonesia and evacuated the wounded.

Tragically, a fire broke out on board the ship while in her homeport at San Diego during maintenance. At around 8:50 am, an explosion occurred on the ship. “It is a Class Alpha fire,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 commander, “meaning it was fueled by paper, cloth, rags or other materials in a standard fire.” Despite not being accelerated by fuel or munitions, the fire was extensive. Firefighting effort were delayed because fire-suppression systems had been disabled due to the maintenance.

Finally, on July 16, the Navy announced that all fires on board had been extinguished. A total of 40 sailors and 23 civilians received minor injuries as a result of the fire. The fire was a “very, very serious incident,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday. 11 of the 14 decks sustained fire and water damage. Many sections of deck were warped or bulging and the ship’s island had been gutted by the flames. On July 31, nine sailors assigned to the Bonhomme Richard were meritoriously promoted for their actions in fighting the fire.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
Sailors fought the fire fore five days to save the ship (U.S. Navy)

Although NCIS and the ATF questioned sailors following the fire, no charges were made and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Navy is also conducting investigations into safety standards to prevent future fires.

On November 30, the Navy announced that the Bonhomme Richard would be decommissioned. “We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.” In fact, the assessment concluded that it would cost the Navy over $3 billion and take five to seven years to restore the ship. The Navy also considered repurposing the ship. However, the associated costs were estimated to exceed $1 billion, as much or more than the cost of a new purpose-built ship.

At this time, the timeline for towing and dismantling is still being finalized. “Although it saddens me that it is not cost effective to bring her back, I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the Sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history,” Braithwaite said.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall
USS Bonhomme Richard on fire at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020 (U.S. Navy)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why artillerymen should bring back their distinctive ‘Redlegs’

Every combat arms branch within the United States Army comes with a long legacy. And with that legacy comes an accompanying piece of flair for their respective dress uniforms. Infantrymen rock a baby blue fourragere on their right shoulder, cavalrymen still wear their spurs and stetsons, and even Army aviators sport their very own badges in accordance with their position in the unit.

But long before the blue cords and spurs, another combat arms branch had their own unique uniform accouterment — one that has since been lost to time. Artillerymen once had scarlet red piping that ran down the side of their pant legs. In fact, these stripes were once so iconic that it gave rise to a nickname for artillerymen: “redlegs.

Due to wartime restrictions, artillerymen stopped wearing the red piping during WWI — and it never made a comeback.


Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall

If you ask any young artilleryman at Fort Sill why they’re called “redlegs,” they’ll probably just look at you funny.

(Department of Defense photo by Margo Wright)

This fact is especially tragic because artillerymen wearing red stripes is one of the oldest military traditions of its kind. The blue cord of the infantry can only be traced as far back as the Korean War and cavalry’s stetson wasn’t invented until 1865. Meanwhile, artillerymen were rocking that red piping as far back as the 1830s.

During the 1800s, the role of the artilleryman was much more complex than most other roles in the Army at the time. Not just any bum off the street could walk into a job that required precise calculations to load the proper amount of gunpowder and fire the cannon at the perfect angle to hit the intended target.

While cannons were way too massive to carry into many fights, seeing the arrival of artillerymen meant that the U.S. Army meant business. Just seeing that red piping as artillerymen arrived on the scene during the Civil War was enough to inspire friendly troops and strike fear into enemies. The role of the artillerymen was crucial in the battles of Buena Vista, Bull Run, Palo Alto, and San Juan Hill.

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall

I guess the only real debate here is if you give it to ADA as well or exclusively to field artillery.

Today, the role of the artilleryman has been reduced greatly. It’s not uncommon for artillerymen who were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq to have more stories about their time on dismounted foot patrols with the infantrymen than ones about removing grid squares from the face of the Earth — after all, counter insurgency mostly forbids that level of wanton destruction.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still many artilleryman who’ve conducted fire missions into actual combat, but that number grows smaller and smaller with each passing year.

As field artillery units grow less common, their heritage is put at risk. At the same time, it seems as though the Army is increasingly leaning onto its historic roots for uniform ideas — as seen with the reintroduction of Army Greens.

Bringing back the distinctive red piping for artillerymen’s dress blues wouldn’t be that drastic of a change — or even that expensive — but it would be fitting. Dress blues are meant to honor the legacy of the soldiers of the American Revolution and Union Armies. What better way to do that than with an homage to the classic?

Articles

US to move mobile land artillery weapons to South China Sea

Senior Army and Pentagon strategists and planners are considering ways to fire existing weapons platforms in new ways around the globe – including the possible placement of mobile artillery units in areas of the South China Sea to, if necessary, function as air-defense weapons to knock incoming rockets and cruise missiles out of the sky, senior Pentagon and Army officials told Scout Warrior.


Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, has said he thinks the U.S. should think about new ways of using land-based rockets and howitzer systems as offensive and defensive weapons in areas of the South China Sea.

Such a move would better ensure access and maneuverability for U.S. and allied ships, assets and weapons in contested or tense areas, he explained.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi

Howitzers or Paladins could be used as a mobile, direct countermeasures to incoming rockets, he said.  A key advantage to using a Paladin is that it is a mobile platform which could adjust to moving or fast-changing approaching enemy fire.

“We could use existing Howitzers and that type of munition (155m shells) to knock out incoming threats when people try to hit us from the air at long ranges using rockets and cruise missiles,” a senior Army official told Scout Warrior in an interview.

This consideration comes not long after Pentagon officials confirmed that satellite pictures show the Chinese have placed weapons such as Surface to Air Missiles in areas of the South China Sea.

Having land-based rockets or artillery could give US and allied forces both strategic and tactical assistance.

“A Howitzer can go where it has to go. It is a way of changing an offensive weapon and using it in dual capacity,” the official explained. “This opens the door to opportunities and options we have not had before with mobile defensive platforms and offensive capabilities.”

Mobile air defenses such as an Army M777 or Paladin Howitzer weapon could use precision rounds and advancing fire-control technology to destroy threatening air assets such as enemy aircraft, drones or incoming artillery fire.

Alongside the South China Sea, more mobile artillery weapons used for air defense could also prove useful in areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, officials said. Having mobile counter-air weapons such as the M109 Paladin, able to fire 155m precision rounds on-the-move, could prove to be an effective air-defense deterrent against Russian missiles, aircraft and rockets in Eastern Europe, the senior Army official told Scout Warrior.

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U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carlos R. Davis, 210th Fires Brigade public affairs NC

Regarding the South China Sea, the U.S. has a nuanced or complicated relationship with China involving both rivalry and cooperation; the recent Chinese move to put surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets on claimed territory in the South China Sea has escalated tensions and led Pentagon planners to consider various options.

Officials are clear to emphasize that no decisions have been made along these lines, yet it is one of the things being considered. Pentagon officials have opposed further militarization of the area and emphasized that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea need to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.

At the same time, Pentagon officials have publically stated the U.S. will continue “freedom of navigation” exercises wherein Navy ships sail within 12 miles of territory claimed by the Chinese – and tensions are clearly on the rise.  In addition to these activities, it is entirely possible the U.S. could also find ways to deploy more offensive and defensive weapons to the region.

Naturally, a move of this kind would need to involve close coordination with U.S. allies in the region, as the U.S. claims no territory in the South China Sea. However, this would involve the deployment of a weapons system which has historically been used for offensive attacks on land. The effort could use an M777 Howitzer or Paladin, weapons able to fire 155m rounds.

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Was George H.W. Bush almost eaten by cannibals?

The 41st President of the U.S., George H.W. Bush, served as Commander in Chief from 1989 until 1993. He also served as Ronald Reagan’s VP from 1981 until 1989. But before his stint in the White House, he had a prolific political career, working in the Texas House of Representatives, as a UN Ambassador, on the Republican National Committee and director of the CIA. 

However, Bush got his start in the Navy, where he was almost captured by cannibals after a crash landing.

At just 18 years old, he joined the service, becoming one of their youngest pilots to date. During WWII, he served in the Pacific Theater, flying a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. His first combat mission took place in May of 1944 and under the callsign/nickname Skin, Bush went on to fly a total of 58 missions with 128 completed landings. 

It was during one of these missions over Japan that our former president had a run-in with a crew of Japanese torturers, an experience which he narrowly escaped. 

Chichi Jima (V5planet, Wikipedia)

A downed plane and hungry captors

After an attack on Chichijima, a Japanese base, Bush was able to attack several of his intended targets. Along the way, however, his plane was hit by enemy fire and went down. Others on the plane died in the crash, but he was able to bail out, landing in water. Those in other planes who survived the fall were captured by the Japanese. Meanwhile, Bush found a raft and paddled away from land as an attempt to get away. He was eventually rescued and taken aboard the USS Finback, a submarine. He was spotted by the watchman and pulled aboard, before the vessel went back underwater. 

The other survivors were tortured, beheaded or killed by other means, and were partially eaten their captors. It’s reported at of the nine Americans who landed alive, eight were killed, and four had parts of their livers and thighs eaten. The future President Bush was the ninth. 

As for the cannibalism, there are a few explanations to this in the 2003 book by James Bradley, Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. In the book, Bradley aligns that consuming the liver is a Japanese tradition, citing the cultural belief of health benefits from consuming human flesh. However, in WWII, cannibalism also became a necessity when food was sparse, with other parts of the body also being consumed. Because only portions of bodies consumed in this case, it’s believed it was ritualistic, but that theory has not been proven. 

This event sparked many trials after the end of the war. Thirty Japanese soldiers were sentenced; punishments ranged from prison time to death by hanging. Members were tried for murder and “prevention of honorable burial,” as wartime laws are not worded for instances of cannibalism. 

George H.W. after the war

After this near-death experience, the future president is said to have had a type of awakening. He believed something was to come of his life, having been spared from a terrible death. 

He later told the press: “Why had I been spared and what did God have in store for me? In my own view, there’s got to be some kind of destiny and I was being spared for something on Earth,” Bush later said. “I think about those guys all the time.”

The 41st President of the United States, Bush passed away November 30, 2018 at 94 years old.

Articles

This Marine batted the enemy’s grenades back at them

At the outbreak of the Korean War, Hector Cafferata, Jr. was a semi-professional football player serving in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He received just two weeks of additional training before being shipped overseas.


Assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines just days before landing at Inchon, he, along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division, battled his way into North Korea. By November 1950, Cafferata and the Marines were preparing for an offensive in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir.

As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir began, the Marines of Fox Company were defending the Toktong pass. On the night of Nov. 28, the Chinese attacked to dislodge them.

What happened next is a legendary story in the Marine Corps — and Cafferata had a large role to play in that.

The Marines of Fox Company had been unable to properly dig in due to the frozen ground and instead cut and gathered tree branches and whatever else they could find to provide cover and concealment.

Due to an intelligence failure, the Marines were unaware that the entire Chinese 9th Army was advancing on their position. That night they crawled into their sleeping bags with minimal security on watch.

At around 0130, the Marines of Fox Company were awoken to a terrible surprise as all hell broke loose around their position. An entire Chinese division, the 59th, were attacking into the Toktong pass to cut off the 1st Marine Division.

The only things standing in their way were Cafferata and the rest of Fox Company.

Hearing the sounds of the attack, Cafferata sprung from his sleeping bag and hurried into the firing line. In his rush to get into the action, he left behind his boots and heavy coat.

In the opening minutes, most of Cafferata’s squad became casualties so he rushed from position to position gathering ammo and pouring fire into the attacking Chinese.

This video is an animation produced by Veterans Expeditionary Media that depicts the battle conditions that night.

He was joined by another Marine, Kenneth Benson, who was temporarily blinded after a grenade explosion had ripped his glasses right off his face. Together they made their way to a small depression and set up to make their stand against the Chinese onslaught.

As the Chinese pressed forward, Cafferata, a crack shot with his M-1 Garand, would empty his clip into the advancing infantry — eight shots, eight communists down.

He would then hand the weapon to Benson to reload while he threw grenades. When the Chinese attacked with their own grenades, he threw them back.

At one point he picked up his entrenching tool and batted the enemy’s grenades right back at them. According to a 2001 interview, Cafferata said he “must have whacked a dozen grenades that night.”

As the Chinese continued to advance, threatening to breakthrough his thinly held portion of the line, he gave them everything he had. He fired his weapon so much he had to pack snow on it to cool it off.

Eventually, Cafferata’s luck began to run out. As he hurled back yet another Chinese grenade, it went off just after leaving his hand. The explosion severed part of his finger and severely damaged his right hand and arm.

Though he was injured, Cafferata’s quick reaction saved several of his comrades.

Despite his wounds, he fought on. The Chinese couldn’t get past him.

Finally, just after daybreak, Cafferata was wounded by a sniper’s bullet and evacuated from the line. When the medics brought him to the aid station, they realized he was suffering from frostbite after fighting in subzero temperatures in his socks all night.

Despite Cafferata being out of action, the rest of Fox Company and the Marines at Chosin Reservoir still had quite a fight on their hands.

According to the Medal of Honor citation for Capt. William Barber, Fox Company’s commander, his 220 Marines held out “5 days and 6 nights against repeated onslaughts by fanatical aggressors.”

And of those 220 Marines, only 82 “were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds.” They carried their wounded out with them, including Cafferata and Barber who were both wounded on the first day of fighting.

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Cafferata receives his Medal of Honor. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Cafferata’s wounds earned him 18 months of recovery in various hospitals. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor.

The day after Cafferata’s amazing stand, the Marines “counted approximately one hundred Chinese dead around the ditch where he fought that night,” but according to one source, they “decided not to put that figure in their report because they thought no one would believe it.”

Cafferata was officially credited with fifteen enemy kills.

Cafferata, always humble, would later state, “I did my duty. I protected my fellow Marines. They protected me. And I’m prouder of that than the fact that the government decided to give me the Medal of Honor.”

Hector Cafferata, Jr. passed away on April 12, 2016 at the age of 86.

Articles

What You’ll Miss When You Get Out

military_transition


Military service ends for everyone at some point.  Regardless of how rewarding and enjoyable it has been, regardless of rank attained or awards earned, eventually it’s time to start the next chapter of a working life – a time to transition to a civilian career.

Also Read: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans 

For me the time came at the 20-year mark.  I spent the majority of my time in uniform stationed at an air base in Virginia Beach attached to various F-14 squadrons.  When I received orders to teach at the Naval Academy in Annapolis I knew my flying days were most likely over, so I started considering what life on the outside might look like for me once I became retirement eligible.

Nothing really jumped out at me.  Because I’d been a Naval Flight Officer – a backseater – and not a pilot, the airlines weren’t an option (not to mention the airline industry has had a major employment downturn in the last decade or so).  I had a bachelor’s degree but it was in political science . . . pretty useless in terms of determining a viable civilian career field.

In spite of the fact that for decades I had assumed that there would be all kinds of jobs waiting to be blessed by my presence when I elected to get out, only when I actually started looking for one did I realize my options were limited.  And when I say “limited” I’m not necessarily speaking about limited in terms of income potential.  I’m talking about limited in terms of job satisfaction potential.

You see, like most of us who stay in the military past our initial obligations, I enjoyed what I was doing.  Of course there were bad days and the challenges of long periods of family separation, but I was living a life of consequence, working a job that Hollywood makes movies about.  I’d flown from aircraft carriers sailing in hostile waters and worked with incredible professionals.  We had carried out the important missions we’d been given.

So among my fears as I transitioned to my first civilian job – that of a civil servant working one of the aircraft programs at a systems command – was that my day-to-day efforts wouldn’t amount to anything important.

And they didn’t . . . at first.

As I traded my flight suit for khakis and a golf shirt I was thrust into a world of grey areas.  Sure, there were job titles and GS pay scales, but those didn’t replicate the structure I’d known during my time on active duty.  Who was I relative to my co-workers?  Absent rank on my collar or warfare devices and ribbons on my chest what did they know (or care) about my years of service?

Nothing, or so it seemed.  I was suddenly just the new guy.  I had no track record.  I’d never done anything that mattered.  Instead of flying fighters and leading troops I was now tasked with, among other minutiae, updating the program’s social roster.  I felt like I was stuck in that Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days”:

“Glory days, they’ll pass you by; glory days, like the wink in a young girl’s eye . . .”

I had no flight schedule to comply with.  I had no detailer to call for my next set of orders.  I had no master chiefs to keep me out of trouble.  I had no uniforms to wear.  Nobody was going to be filming any movies about the action-packed life of a civil servant.

In spite of all my “prep” for the transition (including mandatory TAP, of course) I wasn’t prepared for the subjective part of the move – the “spiritual” side, if you will.  I was more lost (and depressed) than I ever thought I would be.  And the scary part is I wasn’t even fully in the private sector; I was working for the Department of Defense.

Fortunately by the end of the first year of my transition, I’d found my footing, job-wise.  I switched programs to one that actually needed what I had to offer in terms of talent, outlook, and enthusiasm.  In time I was a trusted member of a team again, one with a seat at the decision-making table, and the position was rewarding in its own way.  And that job ultimately gave me the confidence and experience to make the move to the private sector into a role that fully leverages my military career and creativity.

Change is hard; transitioning out of the military is harder.  Part of making it easier is thorough prep work research and networking-wise.  The rest is understanding that it won’t be easy and fighting the notion that the best years are behind you.  Sometimes you might need patience.  Sometimes you might need to go after it in a hurry.  But the same elements that made you an effective warfighter will ultimately serve you well during the civilian chapter of your working life.

NOW: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

OR: The Vice President Just Pulled A ‘Jody’ Move At The Defense Secretary’s Swearing-In 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military community is rallying around this immunocompromised Marine

The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.

Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.


Pin-Ups For Vets on Facebook Watch

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Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.

Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.

“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.

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LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.

“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”

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Deputy Sheriff Sweeney and a future law enforcement officer, clearly!

(Courtesy photo)

Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.

“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.

Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.

And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.

Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography

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