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
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.”
Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.
It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.
The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.
The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)
Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.
The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.
“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.
Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.
Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.
In the Air Force, squadrons are the basic level of operations, its “beating heart” as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein calls them.
To better understand how significant the squadron is to the Air Force, it’s also important to know what a squadron is.
Within the Air Force, the squadron is the lowest level of command with a headquarters element. Squadrons are typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel, though smaller squadrons may be commanded by majors, captains and sometimes even lieutenants. Squadrons can also vary in size and are usually identified numerically and by function. An example would be the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron or the 355th Communications Squadron.
Two or more squadrons form a group. In the Air Force, groups are usually based upon the assignment of squadrons with similar functions. For example, the supply squadron, transportation, and aircraft maintenance squadron would be assigned to the Logistics Group, the flying squadrons would be assigned to the Operations Group and the Dental Squadron and the Medical Squadron would be assigned to the Medical Group. Groups, in turn, are then assigned to a wing with the same number. For instance, the 49th Logistics Group is assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
However, the squadron actually predates the Air Force. In March 1913, the first squadron was created when the Army ordered the creation of the Army Air Services’ 1st Provisional Aero Squadron – known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. military’s oldest flying unit.
The creation of higher echelons came later as the role of air power grew during World War I. Groups and wings were formed in order to remedy the difficulty of coordinating aerial activities between dispersed aero squadrons. Though WWI saw the first great military mobilization, it also saw the first huge drawdown. What was more than 660 aero units diminished to a little over 70 squadrons by 1919, with an air component that was 19,000 soldiers strong reduced to around 5 percent of what it used to be. No one would have predicted that after two decades, the air component found itself expanding once again.
108th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean War activation formation in 1951.
(US Air Force photo)
With the advent of World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower. He believed, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, “that airpower would win the war.” What was then renamed to the Army Air Corps was well funded and grew rapidly, seeing more planes and squadrons than it ever will in its history – from a workforce comprised of 26,500 soldiers in 1939 to a staggering 2,253,000-strong by 1945.
The aerial component saw a considerable drawdown after the war ended, and, despite becoming its own department through the National Security Act of 1947, the number of airmen and squadrons continued to fluctuate and shrink over the years.
In the current Air Force, led by Wilson, Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the push for revitalizing squadrons, empowering airmen and supporting innovation is stronger than ever, but unbeknownst to many, these concepts have been implemented by many successful military leaders of the past. A prime example is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most iconic figures: a man known for his prowess in the aerial battlefield and his famously distinctive lip foliage, Big. Gen. Robin Olds.
“Wolfpack” aviators of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry their Commanding Officer, Colonel Robin Olds, following his return from his last combat mission over North Vietnam, on 23 September 1967. This mission was his hundredth “official” combat mission, but his actual combat mission total for his tour was 152. Olds led the 8th TFW Wolfpack from September 1966 through September 1967, as it amassed 24 MiG victories, the greatest aerial combat record of an F-4 Wing in the Vietnam war.
(US Air Force)
Along with inspiring the Air Force tradition, Mustache March, Olds was known as a triple ace for shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during his career. Along with the accolades he received as a skilled fighter pilot, Olds was known for his innovative leadership. In Vietnam, he led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet aircraft kills – an unsurpassed total for that conflict.
One of the most significant moments in his career was on Jan. 2, 1967, during Operation Bolo, where he, as a colonel, entrusted the planning of an experimental and high-stakes mission to a quartet of veteran junior officers and pilots in his unit. Operation Bolo was conceived in response to the North Vietnamese use of MiG-21s to successfully shoot down F-105 Thunderchief aircraft. Olds noticed that F-4 Phantoms and F-105 Thunderchiefs routes became predictable. Enemy intelligence analysts would listen in on radio transmissions and were able to recognize F-105 and F-4 call signs and flight patterns and used the information to target the more vulnerable F-105s. Olds charged his men to come up with a plan to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking the F-4s were the F-105s. The F-4s were then fitted with the jamming pods usually carried by F-105s so that their electronic signature would be the same and also used the same call signs and flew the same routes and pod formations as the F-105s. Needless to say, the operation was a success and lead to the most MiGs shot down during a single mission.
Francis S. Gabreski (left) congratulates another World War II and Korean War ace, Maj. William T. Whisner (center). On the right is Lt. Col. George Jones, a MiG ace with 6.5 kills.
(US Air Force)
In a commentary commemorating Olds in March of 2018 written by Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, he said that Operation Bolo “showed innovation could work when the leader trusted and empowered his people to think of and implement new and better ways to do business.”
He also referred to Olds as “an innovative leader” at a time when the Air Force was in dire need of innovation to face difficult missions where a lot of people’s lives were at stake.
Just like Olds, Goldfein and Wilson ask airmen to help come up with ideas to reinvigorate squadrons for the force to be ready for the 21st-century fight.
They have gone as far as reviewing all Air Force instructions and empowering commanders to maneuver and make decisions as well as encourage wing commanders to let squadron commanders make important decisions.
Capt. Lacey Koelling, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, and 34th Bomb Squadron members Capt. Lillian Pryor, a B-1 pilot; Capt. Danielle Zidack, a weapon systems officer; Capt. Lauren Olme, a B-1 pilot; and 1st Lt. Kimberly Auton, a weapon systems officer, conduct a preflight briefing prior to an all-female flight out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 21, 2018. The flight was in honor of WomenÕs History Month and consisted of routine training in the local area.
(Air Force photo by Sgt. Jette Carr)
During an Air Force update in September 2017, where Goldfein talked about creating healthy squadrons who excel in multi-domain warfare and ready to lead the joint force, he concluded by saying, “It’s the secretary and my job to release the brilliance found throughout the airmen in our Air Force,” a sentiment that echoes the voices of great Air Force leaders of the past, the present and the future.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The United States Space Force, America’s newest military branch, will begin accepting applications from Air Force personnel to join the Space Force as early as May 1. Enlisted and commissioned Air Force personnel that are eligible to apply for transfer can expect to receive an e-mail from the Air Force Personnel Center early next month to announce the opening of the application process.
What is the Space Force?
The United States Space Force is a newly established military branch dedicated to the defense of America’s orbital assets and eventually even offensive space-based operations.
The United States maintains a massive satellite infrastructure relied on all over the world for everything from navigation to communications to early missile warnings. However, as former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson put it, “We built a glass house before the invention of stones.”
In recent years, nations like Russia and China (each with their own space-based military branches) have rapidly developed weapons designed to interfere with or destroy American satellites. Some of the primary responsibilities of the Space Force currently are tracking orbital bodies (including satellites and debris), mitigating threats to America’s orbital assets, and developing a new infrastructure around “hardening” American satellites or rapidly replacing any that become compromised.
The Space Force has inherited these responsibilities from the Air Force Space Command, making the Air Force personnel tasked with operating that command great candidates for transfer to the new branch.
What Military Occupational Specialties are eligible to join the Space Force?
In all, 16 MOS’s from the Air Force have been listed as essential to the Space Force and therefore eligible for transfer. Of these occupational specialties, two are considered the most coveted by the new branch: space operations (13S) and space systems operations (1C6).
However, Airmen in any of the following occupational specialties are eligible to apply for transfer to the Space Force:
What if I’m being transferred to the Space Force but wish to stay in the Air Force?
If you are in a career field that is being transferred to the Space Force but do not wish to transfer out of the Air Force, you’ll have a few options. The Air Force recommends that you work with your existing chain of command to explore options available to you, such as retraining for a new occupational specialty, transferring to the guard or reserve, or applying for separation or retirement.
In the mean time, you will continue to be assigned to the Air Force but may be assigned roles that support the Space Force until the transition is completed sometime in 2022.
Can I join the Space Force if I’m in the Air Force Reserve or Guard?
Currently, no. If you are already assigned to the support space operations alongside the Space Force, you will currently remain in your Air Force Reserve or Guard unit. Officials are currently trying to assess how best to manage guard and reserve assignments to the Space Force, and things may change eventually.
What if I think I’m eligible for the Space Force but I don’t receive an e-mail telling me how to apply?
If you have one of the occupational specialties listed above but you don’t receive an e-mail from the Air Force Personnel Center telling you that you’re eligible to request a transfer, you are advised to engage with your chain of command and then to contact either the Total Force Service Center or the Air Force Personnel Center.
What if I want to apply for transfer to the Space Force but I’m in a branch other than in the Air Force?
Currently, there is no new established process to request a transfer from the Army, Navy, or Marines, but that will likely change in the future. The Space Force is establishing a foundation for the branch through military personnel already trained for space operations, which is why the focus has been placed on the Air Force.
“There is a general authority for all members of other services to always ask to cross-commission; that’s an authority that already exists,” Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of Space Force, said. “But before [the Space Force] actively engages with the Army and the Navy, we need to make sure through the secretary of defense, through the joint chiefs of staff and through the leaders of the services … how we’re going to take that approach, and who should be eligible to be directly asked or not.
“That’s work [that still needs] to be done,” he said.
When armchair historians discuss naval aviation during the Vietnam War, the focus usually turns to the F-4 Phantom. That’s the multi-service plane flown by the Navy’s only aces of the war — Randall “Duke” Cunningham and Willie Driscoll.
One plane, though, probably deserves more attention than it’s earned.
The RA-3B Skywarrior decked out in camouflage and displaying its various reconnaissance package options. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
That plane is the A-3 Skywarrior – often called the “Whale” due to its size. It certainly was big – more than 76 feet long, and with a 72-foot wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 82,000 pounds.
The A-3 had a range of 2,100 miles and could carry 12,800 pounds of payload.
While the Skywarrior did some bombing missions early on, it shined in the electronic warfare and tanker missions. The Navy turned 85 planes into KA-3B tankers, and 34 were also given jamming pods to become the EKA-3B.
The KA-3B could carry a lot of av gas. (Photo from Wikimedia)
These planes not only could pass a lot of gas to the planes in a carrier’s air wing, they helped to jam enemy radars, blinding them to an incoming attack until it was too late.
Other Skywarrior variants included the RA-3B reconnaissance plane, the ERA-3B electronic aggressor platform, and the EA-3B electronic intelligence version.
As a tanker, the KA-3B and EKA-3B didn’t just enable planes to strike deeper into North Vietnam. These tankers also gave planes gas to get back home – in some cases after suffering serious damage. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that as many as 700 Navy and Marine Corps planes may have been saved by the Whale’s tanker capabilities.
That statistic might be the most important. When an EB-66E bomber was shot down during the Easter Offensive of 1972, it resulted in a massive rescue effort to retrieve the lone survivor, Lieutenant Colonel Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, that resulted in the loss of five aircraft, with 11 Americans killed in action and two more captured.
The last A-3 variants, EA-3Bs, managed to see action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with VQ-2 before they were retired. E-3 airframes, though, flew in private service as RD for avionics until 2011.
LifeWaters offers scuba diving and scuba certifications as part of recreational water therapy. The non-profit organization improves the lives of disabled veterans with a dedicated staff of volunteers, including Spinal Cord Injury therapists, doctors, nurses, veterans, and civilians.
Bill Chase is a Air Force Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1973-1978. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned to dive and then later became a certified diver. In 2016, after a successful engineering career, Chase was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. While at a VA therapy appointment, the therapist mentioned scuba diving, and then referred Chase to LifeWaters.
Forced retirement opens new door
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Chase was forced to retire after the diagnosis and soon sought assistance from Paralyzed Veterans of America for help in filing claims for VA benefits and support at the St. Louis VA. Approximately 700 to 900 veterans with ALS are served annually by PVA to obtain their VA healthcare benefits.
“I am always excited to be involved helping a veteran’s bucket list wish come true!” said PVA Vice President and LifeWaters Advanced Scuba Diver, Hack Albertson. “It was an absolute honor to meet and dive with Bill Chase and his family.”
Albertson credits the LifeWaters adaptive scuba training that allowed him to dive in over 200 locations around the world. “I love being a member of LifeWaters and [being] an Advanced Scuba Diver. I was even blessed to dive Pearl Harbor on December 7th while conducting an oil study for the U.S. National Park Service. I can never thank LifeWaters enough for the opportunities and experiences diving has given me.”
“Blown away by kindness” at LifeWaters
LifeWaters offers different services depending on needs, desires and skill level. They have amputee scuba diving, disabled veteran scuba diving and other scuba diving programs.
“ALS progression is different for everyone. In my case, I have no leg motion, my arms and lungs are affected. I’ve recently lost some ground with my lungs, so when I dive I now use a full-face mask because it’s easier to breathe,” said Chase.
Chase was surprised that he was eligible for adaptive diving. He recently completed the HERO dive with his family at the Epcot Center Aquarium at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Chase has even gotten closer to his family while they trained for their scuba adventure.
“If I were in a different physical state, I wouldn’t hesitate to become part of this group. The dive itself was awesome, in spite of my physical limitations. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience,” he said.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Air Force has designated the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight research vehicle as X-60A. The vehicle is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.
It is an air-dropped liquid rocket, specifically designed for hypersonic flight research to mature technologies including scramjet propulsion, high temperature materials, and autonomous control.
“The X-60A is like a flying wind tunnel to capture data that complements our current ground test capability,” said Col. Colin Tucker, Military Deputy, office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering. “We’ve long needed this type of test vehicle to better understand how materials and other technologies behave while flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound. It enables faster development of both our current hypersonic weapon rapid prototypes and evolving future systems.”
(Generation Orbit Launch Services)
AFRL’s motivation for the X-60A program is to increase the frequency of flight testing while lowering the cost of maturing hypersonic technologies in relevant flight conditions. While hypersonic ground test facilities are vital in technology development, those technologies must also be tested with actual hypersonic flight conditions.
Utilizing new space commercial development, licensing, and operations practices, X-60A is envisioned to provide the Air Force, other U.S. Government agencies, and industry with a platform to more rapidly mature technologies.
The X-60A rocket vehicle propulsion system is the Hadley liquid rocket engine, which utilizes liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. The system is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8.
This is the first Air Force Small Business Innovative Research program to receive an experimental “X” designation.
Featured image: An artist’s sketch of an X-60A launch.
The head of the Air Force Academy stood all his 4,000 cadets at attention Sept. 28 to deliver a message on racial slurs found written on message boards at the academy’s preparatory school.
Chins in and chests out, the cadets were flanked by 1,500 officers, sergeants, athletic coaches, and civilian professors inside cavernous Mitchell Hall. Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria told them to take out their smartphones and record his words.
“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out,” he said.
Silveria spoke as investigators interviewed cadet candidates at the prep school, where five black students woke up Sept. 26 to find “Go Home” followed by the epithet scrawled on message boards outside their rooms.
Sources at the academy said there appeared to be a single vandal involved, judging by the handwriting.
“Security Forces are looking into the matter,” Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in an email. “We’re unable to release any additional information at this time due to the ongoing investigation.”
The preparatory school gives cadet candidates a year of rigorous tutoring so they can meet the academy’s strict academic standards. Traditionally, more than half of the students at the prep school are recruited athletes.
Racial slurs are legal in the rest of society, but not in the military, where their use is the kind of conduct that can be court-martialed. Those who wrote the slurs could face charges of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Silveria, who took command at the school in August, has told cadets and staff repeatedly that his highest priority is ensuring a climate of “dignity and respect.” He called that a “red line” that can’t be crossed without severe repercussions.
After the speech, he said the Sept. 28 gathering, which drew nearly all of the academy’s personnel, was not mandatory.
The general said having the school’s officers take time to come to the speech showed their dedication to stamping out racism at the school, where about a third of cadets are minorities.
“The most important message there was not from me,” he said.
Silveria wants his cadets and other troops angry about what happened at the preparatory school.
“You should be outraged,” he told them.
He said the Sept. 28 show of opposition to racism should counter any impact on recruiting minority cadets.
“I’m not worried at all after what we demonstrated today,” he said.
The public display Sept. 28 is in contrast to how the academy has dealt with controversy in recent years, with probes into a variety of issues from sexual assault to an on-campus death dealt with behind a veil of secrecy.
After the speech, Silveria said he thinks dealing with the racial slurs in public is important.
“I wanted to make it clear, this is not something I am keeping from anyone,” he said. “We have to talk about what that means.”
The academy in recent weeks has worked to address the racially-charged state of America. This week, academy dean Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost hosted a campus-wide discussion about white supremacist incidents that accompanied an August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost. Photo courtesy of USAF.
In his speech, Silveria said discussions about race are important.
“We should have a civil discourse, that’s a better idea,” he said.
But talking about racial issues and tolerating racism are different, he said.
“If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out,” he told the cadets.
The military has stood as a beacon of relative racial harmony since President Harry Truman issued a 1948 order that ended racial bias in the ranks.
Since then, the military has been a leader in accepting homosexuals and transgender troops. The transgender issue was brought back into play this summer when President Donald Trump tweeted his intent to ban transgender service. The Pentagon has put the presidential proposal under study but hasn’t discharged transgender troops.
The general on Sept. 28 called the families of the five cadet candidates who were targeted in the slur incident.
He said recent events that have highlighted racial issues, from NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to fights over confederate statues, have weighed on his mind lately.
“My point is we can’t pretend that doesn’t impact us,” he said.
But the academy can fall back on an unshakable foundation when racial incidents arise, he said.
“No one can write on a board and take away our ideals,” he said.
On the 74th anniversary of the D-Day invasion next spring, up to three dozen athletes will wade ashore on Omaha Beach, scale the once-fortified cliffs of Normandy and march with heavy ruck packs into the French countryside.
The man re-creating the invasion route that changed the course of World War II is retired Navy SEAL Lance Cummings of Cardiff. The 58-year-old veteran is organizing the one-day biathlon-style athletic challenge to raise $175,000 for the Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Fla.
The event on June 6, 2018, is the follow-up to last spring’s Sparta300 for Charity, where Cummings led 19 military veterans, reservists, and endurance athletes on an eight-day, 240-mile trek across Greece.
The team — 18 men and one woman — retraced the epic journey to battle of the ancient Spartan King Leonidas and his 300-man army in 480 BC. That event raised $300,000 for three Navy SEAL charities.
A few Epic Charity Challenge members participating in the Sparta300 trek across Greece. Photo from Facebook.
Eight of those Sparta300 participants have already signed up for the D-Day event, which Cummings has billed as the Epic Charity Challenge. Among them is Jimmy Whited, 48, a Miami insurance industry executive who said he’d follow Cummings anywhere.
“The combination of having an endurance event that has significant historic importance with raising money for charity is incredible,” Whited said. “We became great friends in Sparta, enduring significant pain and immersing ourselves in history while laughing all the way.”
Cummings said the Greek trek was very emotional for him and for all the members of the Sparta300 team. But as a US military veteran, he thinks that following in the footsteps of the Allied forces who bravely landed on the heavily defended Normandy coastline in June 1944 will be even more powerful.
“I expect this will be one of the most daunting experiences of my life,” he said. “My family has watched so many videos on the History Channel of what happened that day. The ocean ran red with the blood of those men. We see this not as just a challenge to raise money, but as a way to honor their sacrifices.”
During his long career in Navy special operations, Cummings deployed overseas 16 times to the Middle East, Asia, and South America. Since his retirement in 2011, he’s been working part time training athletes in SEAL-style fitness skills and as a chiropractor for both people and animals.
Born and raised in Macon, Ga., Cummings joined the SEALS at age 22 after a year of Navy fleet service in Connecticut. He served on active duty until 1995, then joined the reserves for five years while he earned his chiropractic degree and started a practice in Georgia.
He was reactivated after 9/11 and sent to Afghanistan for a year. Then he became a private contractor, working first for Blackwater and then, after moving to San Diego in 2004, for the Navy, setting up its human performance initiative program for soon-to-deploy SEAL teams. The program assesses potential health problems and does preventive therapy to reduce the risk of injuries in the field.
Cummings started doing charitable work in 2015 when he and his wife, Michele Grad, signed up for an arthritis charity event where they pedaled 525 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a tandem bicycle. Grad said that her husband found the fund-raising experience so addicting, he’s been looking for ways to do more ever since.
Because of his long military service, Cummings has gotten strong support for the events from the US government. Before the Sparta300 hike began, the US Embassy staff in Athens hosted a reception in the group’s honor. Cummings said the staff at the Normandy memorial site has also been very easy to work with.
Retired Navy SEAL Lance Cummings and others taking part in Epic Charity Challenge’s Sparta300. Photo from Facebook.
The Sparta300 event was especially appealing to military veterans because it recalled a famous battle that changed history. King Leonidas and his 300-man Spartan army all perished at Thermopylae, but they held off the much-larger Persian Army for several days, allowing the Greek forces time to retreat and regroup.
Like the Spartan army, the Sparta300 trekkers covered the same distance, from Sparta to Thermopylae in eight days, and they each carried 60-pound packs to simulate the weight of the Spartans’ battle kit. Hewes Hull, a 49-year-old investment company CEO from Birmingham, Ala., said the camaraderie of the group is what kept him going.
“It was 100 percent about the people,” said Hewes, who has also signed up for the D-Day event. “How many times can anyone say they’ve spent eight days rucking with 20 people 10 hours a day and enjoyed every minute of it?”
Cummings conceived the idea for the D-Day event because he liked the idea of re-creating another battle plan that changed history, and he wanted to support the Navy SEAL Museum.
Opened in 1985, the museum commemorates the history of the SEALs, an elite Navy special forces unit that got its start during World War II at Ft. Pierce. Volunteers with strong swimming skills were recruited from the Navy ranks to serve as frogmen and underwater demolitions crews who cleared obstacles and reefs to allow landing craft to reach the beaches in both the Pacific and European theaters of the war.
For most of the past 15 years, Cummings has attended Veterans Day “muster” events at Ft. Pierce. The weekend program includes an ever-shrinking reunion of surviving Navy Combat Demolition Unit veterans from World War II, as well as a memorial ceremony, where Cummings and other SEALs honor those who’ve passed away by scattering their ashes offshore.
Rick Kaiser, executive director of the Navy SEAL Museum and a retired Navy SEAL master chief, said the Normandy event will help support SEALs and their families.
“The monies raised at the Normandy event will directly benefit the Museum’s Trident House Charities Program,” Kaiser said in a statement. “As the only museum in the world dedicated solely to SEALs and their predecessors, we are passionate and committed to this mission, however, the true heart of the Museum is to support our Special Operations Forces and their families.
“The Museum does this through the Trident House Charities Program in a three-pillar approach, providing college scholarships to the children of US Special Operations Forces; offering direct family support where there is additional financial need; and with the help of the Renewal Coalition, providing respite homes and family retreats entirely complimentary to serve our Special Operations Forces and their families, including the Museum’s Trident House in Sebastian, Florida,” Kaiser said.
Compared to the week-long Sparta300 event, the Epic Charity Challenge in Normandy takes place on just one day, but Cummings said that, like the Sparta trek, it will be so difficult that participants need five to six months of training to succeed.
The morning of June 6 will begin at 5 a.m., when boats will take participants out into the notoriously turbulent English Channel. Up to 25 team members will swim 6.2 miles (or 10 kilometers) to Omaha Beach. For those without strong swimming skills, up to 10 people will have the option of paddling 10 to 12 miles back in a Zodiac-style boat. That should take about five hours.
Participants will climb ropes or ladders up the 120-foot cliffs, then participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery Memorial on the bluffs. Then they’ll pull on a 44-pound pack (in honor of the year 1944) and ruck 20 miles to the town of Saint-L”, which should take another five to seven hours. The event will conclude that night with a celebratory dinner.
Participants are each expected to raise $5,000 in donations. Cummings is also recruiting several corporate sponsors, including Aqua Lung in Carlsbad, which is donating the swimmers’ wetsuits and fins. Pelican Case has also donated items for an online auction.
Through a new website, Cummings said his goal is to raise additional money to pay for several World War II veterans, both American and French, to take part in the ceremonies. More information is available via email at Seacoasthealth@gmail.com.
Chicago real estate agent Sean Easton, 32, is another who did the Sparta300 and has registered for the D-Day event. He said he can’t wait to be “wet and cold” at Normandy after suffering in the dry heat of Greece.
“The Sparta300 was a once-in-a-lifetime event that introduced me to a group who have pushed me farther than I thought possible,” he said. “They’re like-minded individuals who are constantly helping each other push themselves to grow as humans.”
A highly decorated Army Special Forces soldier pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking conspiracy, admitting he attempted to smuggle nearly 90 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to Florida aboard a military aircraft in August 2018.
Master Sgt. Daniel Gould first smuggled 10 kilograms of the narcotic in early 2018, according to the US Attorney’s statement. A co-defendant in the trial traveled to Colombia with the payment for the first load, which Gould then placed in a gutted-out punching bag.
According to a report by the Panama City News Herald, Gould had a driver transport the cocaine to Bogota, where it was placed on a military aircraft and transported to the US. The cocaine was then distributed in northwest Florida, according to the US Attorney’s statement. Gould was assigned to 7th Special Forces Group, an Army command garrisoned at Eglin Air Force Base in the same region.
Master Sgt. Daniel Gould.
(US Army photo)
The conspirators reinvested the money from the first load, sending about ,000 back to Colombia on another military aircraft. Then, in early August 2018, Gould returned to Colombia to retrieve the second load of cocaine.
Using the same method, Gould hid 40 kilograms — nearly 90 pounds with a street value over id=”listicle-2625024194″ million, according to US attorneys — in the punching bags. The cocaine was discovered at the US Embassy in Bogota on August 13, 2018, when the bags went through an X-ray. Gould had already departed Colombia when the drugs were discovered, and was waiting in Florida to retrieve them.
Gould recently separated from the Army, according to the Herald. The Green Beret received the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest military award for valor, for combat action in Afghanistan in 2008.
One of Gould’s co-defendants, 35-year-old Henry Royer, pleaded not guilty to the same charges of drug trafficking, according to the Herald. A third man, Colombian national Gustavo Pareja, has also been indicted.
Gould will be sentenced on March 12, 2019; he faces 10 years to life on each count of conspiracy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China’s military rise is well-planned, and Chinese leaders are following a strategy they believe will lead to greater power and influence both regionally and globally, according to an unclassified report released today by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The 125-page report, “China Military Power — Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win,” details some of the efforts made by the world’s most populous nation to build a military force that will allow it to back up plans for “great rejuvenation.”
“As we look at China, we see a country whose leaders describe it as moving closer to center stage in the world, while they strive to achieve what they call the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,'” said Dan Taylor, a senior defense intelligence analyst with the DIA. “This ambition permeates China’s national security strategy and guides the development of the People’s Liberation Army.”
People’s Liberation Army troops prepare for a parade in September 2017 commemorating the PLA’s 90th anniversary.
(Photo from Defense Intelligence Agency 2019 China Military Power report)
Taylor pointed out that the PLA is not actually a national institution in China, but rather the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party. About 3 million serve on active duty in the PLA, making it the largest military force in the world. Additionally, it’s thought the PLA receives about 0 billion a year in funding — about 1.4 percent of China’s gross domestic product — though lack of transparency means exact numbers can’t be determined.
Comprehensive national power
Communist party leaders in China, Taylor said, are looking to build “comprehensive national power” over the first few decades of the 21st century, and a key component of that is enhanced military power.
“China is rapidly building a robust, lethal force, with capabilities spanning ground, air, maritime, space and information domains, designed to enable China to impose its will in the region, and beyond,” Taylor said.
Economic growth in China has enabled it to spend significantly to modernize the PLA, and continued development is expected, Taylor said.
“In the coming years, the PLA is likely to grow even more technologically advanced and proficient, with equipment comparable to that of other modern militaries,” Taylor said. “The PLA will acquire advanced fighter aircraft, modern naval vessels, missile systems, and space and cyberspace assets as it reorganizes and trains to address 21st century threats farther from China’s shores.”
According to the DIA report, Chinese efforts to advance the PLA have been informed, at least in part, by what it has observed of the U.S. military during past military operations — including both abilities and gaps in capability.
“The Gulf War provided the PLA stark lessons regarding the lethal effectiveness of information-enabled weapons and forces, particularly mobility and precision-strike capabilities, that had become the standard for effectively waging war in the modern era,” the report says.
The Chinese also have adapted their forces and doctrine to exploit perceived gaps in U.S. defenses.
Following the Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders perceived a period of strategic opportunity, the report says.” Convinced they would not see a major military conflict before 2020, China embarked on a period of economic and military development.
The Chinese increased the PLA budget by an average of 10 percent per year from 2000 to 2016, for instance. They additionally reformed the way the PLA bought weapons, and instituted several broad scientific and technical programs to improve the defense industrial base and decrease the PLA’s dependence on foreign weapon acquisitions.
The PLA saw the capabilities U.S. and Western forces fielded. Those forces used realistic training scenarios, and the Chinese adapted that to their forces as well. Leaders also implemented personnel changes to professionalize the PLA.
“The PLA developed a noncommissioned officer corps and began programs to recruit more technically competent university graduates to operate its modern weapons,” the report says. “PLA political officers assigned to all levels of the military acquired broader personnel management responsibilities in addition to their focus on keeping the PLA ideologically pure and loyal to the CCP.”
Professionalization of the PLA, with an increased push to focus on an ability to “fight and win” — a goal that mirrors U.S. doctrine — has been a hallmark of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent military strategy, said one defense official speaking to reporters on background.
Key takeaways from the DIA report include the Chinese emphasis on cyber capabilities, the defense official added. “It’s clear to us it’s a very important area to the Chinese,” the official said. “But it’s hard to know exactly how effective a cyberattack capability is until it’s actually used.”
China’s focus on Taiwan also is a focus of the DIA report.
“Xi Jinping has made it clear that resolving or making progress, at least, on resolving … the Taiwan situation is a very top priority for him,” the defense official said.
C. Todd Lopez of Defense.gov contributed to this report.
In October 1983 the Caribbean nation of Grenada experienced a series of bloody coups over the course of a week, threatening U.S. interests as well as U.S. citizens on the island. In a controversial move, President Reagan decided to launch Operation Urgent Fury, an invasion of the island nation (and the first real-world test of the all-volunteer force in combat).
The Grenadian forces were bolstered by Communist troops from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, and Bulgaria. The U.S. rapid deployment force was more or less an all-star team of the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions, the 82nd Airborne, U.S. Marines, Delta Force, and Navy SEALs. Despite the strength of the invasion force, planning, intelligence, communication and coordination issues plagued their interoperability (and led to Congress reorganizing the entire Department of Defense). Army helicopters couldn’t refuel on Navy ships. There was zero intelligence information coming from the CIA. Army Rangers were landed on the island in the middle of the day.
The list of Urgent Fury mistakes is a long one, but one snafu was so huge it became legend. The basic story is that a unit on the island was pinned down by Communist forces. Interoperability and communications were so bad, they were unable to call for support from anywhere. A member of the unit pulled out his credit card and made a long-distance call by commercial phone lines to their home base, which patched it through to the Urgent Fury command, who passed the order down to the requested support.
The devil is in the details. The Navy SEALs Museum says the caller was from a group of Navy SEALs in the governor’s mansion. He called Fort Bragg for support from an AC-130 gunship overhead. The gunship’s support allowed the SEALs to stay in position until relieved by a force of Recon Marines the next day. Some on the ground with the SEALs in Grenada said it was for naval fire support from nearby ships.
The story is recounted in Mark Adkins’ Urgent Fury: the Battle for Grenada. Another report says it was a U.S. Army “trooper” (presumably meaning “paratrooper”) who called his wife to request air support from the Navy. Screenwriter and Vietnam veteran James Carabatsos incorporated the event into his script for “Heartbreak Ridge” after reading about an account from members of the 82nd Airborne. In that version, paratroopers used a payphone and calling card to call Fort Bragg to request fire support.
“An army officer who had needed artillery support… could look out to sea and see naval vessels on the horizon, but he had no way to talk to them. So he used his personal credit card in a payphone, placed a call to Fort Bragg, asked Bragg to contact the Pentagon, had the Pentagon contact the Navy, who in turn told the commander off the coast to get this poor guy some artillery support. Clearly a new system was needed.”
The story has a happy ending from an American POV. These days, the U.S. invasion is remembered by the Grenadian people as an overwhelmingly good thing, as bloody Communist revolutions ended with the elections following the invasion. Grenada marks the anniversary of the U.S. intervention with a national holiday, its own Thanksgiving Day.
If you’re one of the 44 million Americans who have been vaccinated, you can celebrate with a donut, as Krispy Kreme announced that it will be giving a free glazed donut to anyone who comes in with a vaccination card.
The free donut initiative is actually extremely generous. The free donuts are not just a one-time offer. The deal lasts through 2021 and there are no limits to the number of donuts vaccinated people can enjoy. In fact, if you want to, you could grab a free Krispy Kreme donut every day for the rest of the year as long as you bring your vaccination card.
Krispy Kreme is also planning on delivering some well-earned free donuts to support workers and volunteers at vaccination sites across the country over the next few weeks.
“We all want to get COVID-19 behind us as fast as possible and we want to support everyone doing their part to make the country safe by getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to them,” the donut chain said in a release.
And that’s not all, the popular donut company is giving employees up to four hours of vacation time in order to get vaccinated, which is similar to what companies like Target and Dollar General are doing for employees as well. Other chains, such as Petco and Kroger, are offering cash or gift cards to employees who show proof of vaccination.
Skena did make it clear that Krispy Kreme employees would not be required to get vaccinated, saying that it’s a “personal choice” but that the company wants “to encourage and make sure nothing is standing in the way” of employees getting the vaccine.
“I hope that other brands will see and choose to do something similar,” Skena said.