Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

It is not uncommon to stumble upon live videos while scrolling through Facebook. And for the hundreds of people who follow Army wife Sofia de Falco — who is an adjunct professor of Italian language and literature — it is not uncommon to come across her videos where she is smiling and dancing, uplifting them with a joyful and serene expression on her face. As the hundreds of comments on her posts highlight, Sofia is a source of inspiration and a true beacon of light to many.


But in those videos, Sofia is in a hospital room, wearing a shirt that lightly uncovers the right side of her chest, revealing the central venous catheter that feeds her chemotherapy medicine directly into her bloodstream.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

In February 2019, Sofia was diagnosed with lymphoma. “I found a lump in my groin,” Sofia said. “But I didn’t give it much thought because it wasn’t the first time. I always had them removed and nothing suspicious ever came of it.”

During her Christmas vacation in Naples, Italy — where she is originally from — Sofia developed a dry and irritating cough. “I decided to go to a local doctor and see if there was anything he could do.” After the doctor dismissed her because he couldn’t find anything wrong, Sofia made a follow-up appointment with her PCM in Virginia, where she and her family are stationed.

“As I was leaving my PCM’s office,” Sofia said, “I turned around and told him about the lump in my groin, which had grown in size by then.” The doctor had Sofia lie down, checked the lump and told her to see a hematologist and a surgeon. Although he didn’t explicitly verbalize it at the time, the doctor suspected Sofia had lymphoma.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

He was right. “Since February 2019, I have been going through countless tests and surgical procedures,” Sofia revealed. After being told the first round of chemotherapy — which she faced in “warrior mode,” she said — had worked and she was clear, in November 2019 Sofia’s positive attitude and bright outlook on life was put to the test again. “The cancer came back,” she said. “And this time, I have to fight even harder.” Sofia will have to undergo a stem cell transplant and several rounds of high-dose chemotherapy.

Yet, she dances. As if those tubes were not attached to her body. As if the machine next to her was not feeding her chemo medicine. As if she didn’t suffer from nausea and migraines. She dances as if she were by the beach in downtown Naples, with a bright sun glittering over the Mediterranean Sea in the background, its warm rays caressing her exposed skin.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

“I dance on it,” she said. “Dancing makes me happy, so I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. My body feels so much better after I get up and start dancing, just like one, two, three, four,” she said snapping her fingers as if following the rhythm of an imaginary song.

“Dancing is a way for me to keep away the pain, the sorrow and the negative thoughts,” she admitted. “I believe that it is possible to defeat this beast because I believe in the power of hope.”

And as her hundreds of followers are inspired by her inner strength that shines through her smile, and as the stunned nurses watch her from outside her hospital room while she dances through chemo, she laughs out loud confessing, “You know, I’m actually really bad at dancing!”

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 close call moments with war correspondents caught on film

War correspondents put their lives on the line to document the evolution of conflict wherever it unfolds. This dangerous profession built on the ethos of truth has claimed many brave souls the world over. Between 1992 and 2018, 299 journalists have died in the midst of firefights, 170 died on dangerous assignments, and 849 were assassinated — too commonly by their own governments.

We as warfighters are groomed for the trials of combat with training, weapons, and a band of brothers. However, these civilians dance with death untrained, unarmed, and relatively alone. It is difficult for civilians to earn the respect of seasoned veterans, but these reporters do not have that problem. This list is of the lucky ones, the ones who went all in at the roulette wheel of life and broke even.

When you dance with the devil, you don’t get to choose when the song ends.


CNN: CNN reporter caught in firefight

Ben Wedeman is caught in the middle of a counter attack

Ben Wedeman from CNN was reporting in Qawalish, Libya during the Libyan Civil War. The conflict started on Feb. 15, 2011, and ended with the assassination of Muammar Al Gathafi in the city of Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. It was a full-scale civil war between Muammar Gaddafi’s government and the anti-Gaddafi forces sparked by protests.

The footage seen here is from a rebel offensive in an attempt to reclaim al-Qawalish. Rebel forces closed in on Brega, supported by NATO air and sea strikes aimed at government targets. Gaddafi’s forces engaged the rebel counterattack with a flanking maneuver pinning Ben Wedeman in the crossfire. The bombardments mentioned in the video are from NATO hitting targets in the vicinity of Brega, Gharyan, Sirte, Tripoli, Waddan, and Zliten during this time as well.

Watch as Sky News crew survives Islamic State suicide bomb explosion in Mosul

Sam Kiley survives a VBIED attack

A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) has enormous destructive potential and is the preferred weapon of the Islamic State. In March 2017, the third phase of the battle for Mosul, Iraq was underway. Fierce house to house fighting had turned the city into a graveyard of twisted metal. Up to this point, more than 3,500 civilians had been killed since the beginning of the assault on western Mosul.

Inclement weather slowed the advance of Iraqi troops, but they could take solace that the major districts in the city were now under their control. However, these victories did not mean safety. ISIS was determined to keep the city, and deployed their suicide bombers. Sam Kiley narrowly survived a VBIED attack because, luckily, someone parked a bulldozer next to his vehicle.

Fox News journalists attacked by Georgians

Steve Harrigan is attacked by the defeated Georgian army

Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 12, 2008 The Russo-Georgian War took place between Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Russian troops marched on the city of Gori, Georgia after the capture of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. In these 5 short days, over 1,500 civilians were killed before a ceasefire was called. Georgian troops, frustrated with the outcome of the conflict, continued to shoot at Russians and any civilians in their path.

Fox News’ Steve Harrigan is at the wrong place but luckily gets out at the right time.

Ukraine: Fleeing artillery fire during ceasefire

Ian Pannell caught between artillery fire during ceasefire

On Feb. 20, 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian soldiers without insignias captured strategic locations and infrastructure in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Russia then annexed Crimea after a corrupted vote to join the Russian Federation. Friction and intense fighting evolved from the mixed reaction to the new Russian presence.

A year later, on Feb. 14, 2015, the second Minsk ceasefire came into effect between Russia and Ukraine.

The following were the terms that were agreed upon:

1. Immediate and full bilateral ceasefire
2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides
3. Effective monitoring and verification regime for the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons
4. From day one of the withdrawal begin a dialogue on the holding of local elections
5. Pardon and amnesty by banning any prosecution of figures involved in the Donetsk and Luhansk conflict
6. Release of all hostages and other illegally detained people
7. Unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to the needy, internationally supervised
8. Restoration of full social and economic links with affected areas
9. Full Ukrainian government control will be restored over the state border, throughout the conflict zone
10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed groups, weapons, and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory
11. Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with adoption of a new constitution by the end of 2015

No provision has been fully upheld in the Minsk II treaty. Thus, to this day the region is plagued by conflict and the growing threat of the former Soviet Union returning under Vladimir Putin.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY CULTURE

Peace we seek, peace we keep: Naval ship named in MoH recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams’ honor

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, an infantry rifleman corporal with 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, Charlie Company during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, is having a United States naval ship commissioned in his honor on March 7, 2020 in Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.


Williams received a Medal of Honor from President Truman for his efforts as special weapons unit in a flamethrower demolition group in advancing US forces on Feb. 23, 1945.

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Williams was born in 1923 in Fairmont, West Virginia. He decided to join the Marine Corps in May 1943. During his time in the armed forces, Williams fought the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history, and Williams was a pivotal component in The United States’ victory.

“When we arrived on shore it was really chaotic because the Marines of the 4th Division had been pinned to that area for days; two days at least,” said Williams. “Many of them had been wounded and evacuated so there were packs and rifles and jeeps blowing up and tanks stuck in the sand.”

Williams shared how the Marines would “belly out” and the tracks would turn but couldn’t get any traction because the sand was so loose. He recalls how when he first arrived from the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), or Higgins Boat, Marines that had been killed were rolled in their ponchos.

The goal was to destroy as many of the enemy’s pill boxes, or strategic bunkers that housed weaponry and allow protection from enemy forces. Williams used a flamethrower to take down the Japanese pillboxes for hours.

Upon his return home in 1945 he received a Medal of Honor award for his bravery by President Truman.

“From that day on, I took on a new life.” said Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, Medal of Honor Recipient and World War II Veteran. “I became a public figure that I had no plan whatsoever to be.”

He retired after twenty years in the Marine Corps Reserve and became the Commandant of the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, West Virginia for almost 10 years. “It’s almost like a dream,” said Williams. “It’s something that I dreamed would never happened.”

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Williams discussed how a Marine saw a ship with a Medal of Honor recipients name on it 20 years ago and he wanted to have a ship named after Williams as well.

Williams was told that that there would be a petition to have a ship named in his honor, and for several years there were petitions and paperwork to vouch for Williams having a ship named after him. Williams did not believe that a ship could be named after a corporal, and believed that was something reserved only for presidents and generals.

“I never dreamed it would happen,” said Williams. “I never thought it was possible.”

The Department of the Navy called Williams and told him that the petition would be approved. Upon approval, Williams needed to find a sponsor for the ship.

In naval history, the sponsor is traditionally one woman, usually the wife of the person having the ship named after him. This tradition was broken because Williams did not want to choose between his two daughters, so the Navy allowed both of his daughters to be the sponsors of his ship because his wife is deceased.

After picking a sponsor, Williams was required to pick a motto for the ship. The ships motto will be: peace we seek, peace we keep.

“I fought for quite some time; I could not come up with anything,” said Williams. “One morning, at about two o’clock in the morning I woke up and there it was. I jumped up and wrote it down before I lost it.”

Williams describes how he never dreamed that the Navy would actually use those words. He concluded the interview by sharing the principles that he chooses to live by.

“Serving others gives you a satisfaction that you cannot get anywhere else.” said Williams.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This castaway airman helped map the entire world

A sandy white beach. Swaying palm trees. Cocktails made from coconut juice.


As frigid air and snowstorms whip across most of the U.S., service members may dream of trading their current duty station for an exotic Pacific paradise.

But they might want to think again, according to Bob Cunningham, a former Air Force radar operator whose first duty station was a tiny, oblong blister of land in the South China Sea. He knows it as North Danger Island.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
Airman 2nd Class Bob ‘Red’ Cunningham, 1374th Mapping and Charting Squadron, sits near his footlocker and reads a magazine during his six-month assignment on North Danger Island in 1956. The 22-year old radar operator and his three teammates lived in a tent and shared the tiny island in the South China Sea with a six-man Air Force radio relay station team. (Courtesy photo Bob Cunningham)

For six months in 1956, Cunningham lived on a remote knob approximately 2,000 feet long and 850 feet wide in the Spratly Islands group located midway between the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. His home was a canvas tent and he manned radio and radar equipment for a secret Air Force project mapping the earth.

The mission was an aerial electronic geodetic survey. Specially equipped aircraft flew grid patterns and triangulated electromagnetic pulses sent between temporary ground stations hundreds of miles apart. The data, computed into highly accurate coordinates, would eventually provide targeting information for intercontinental ballistic missile development.

It was a ‘million dollar experience’ that he wouldn’t give two cents to repeat, Cunningham jokes today.

Not that it wasn’t an adventure, he admits.

Cunningham’s four-man team and all its equipment was helicoptered to the island from the deck of a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), along with the drinking water, fuel and rations the men would need to survive. Resupply occurred every 4-6 weeks by helicopter, supplemented by occasional parachute drops. A radio relay team of six Airmen had already established itself on the island and shared the same copse of trees.

“I was 22 years old. I was the kid on the island so it was a real experience,” Cunningham remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of sophistication psychologically, and that was a real psychological test for human beings, to be going like that.”

Also Read: Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

He was an Airman 2nd Class, a two-striper, with just over a year of service in the Air Force and some college education. His sergeants had seen combat during World War II and were wise to what the isolated team would endure. Their ingenuity, humor and direct leadership kept young Cunningham and the others on the island from mentally cracking.

To keep a low profile, the Airmen were ordered to stow their uniforms and wear civilian shorts and sneakers, sandals and cowboy hats instead.

The men also kept their pistols and M-1 Garand rifles ready, knowing that pirates and other possible threats roamed the waters surrounding them.

“The Chinese nationalists came by with a gun boat. A big, long vessel. Military. Chinese Navy,” Cunningham said. “And they had this big three-inch cannon on the front on a turret, and they swung that baby in toward our island, and they had some machine gun turrets, and pretty soon we saw boats come over the edge and some officers got on that and they came in to see who we were and what we were doing.”

The Airmen placed palm fronds along the beach to spell out U-S-A-F. The gunboat crew was satisfied and the standoff ended.

On another occasion, Okinawan fishermen came ashore to trade their fish for drinking water.

“They saw our 50-foot antenna that we put up for our radar set, our pulse radio, and so they were curious,” Cunningham said. “They came onboard and they were quite friendly.”

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
Cunningham pumps water from an old well on North Danger Island in 1956. The Airmen only used this for laundry and washing. Drinking water was delivered in 55-gallon barrels. (Courtesy photo Bob Cunningham)

But visitors were the exception. Day after day, interaction was limited to within the tiny community of Airmen.

A feud between two staff sergeants took a bad turn when one threatened to kill the other.

Cunningham’s technical sergeant knew he had to step in and confront the enraged man. But first he warned Cunningham and the other radar operator that the situation could explode and that they might have to use their weapons.

“He said, ‘I’m calling him in here, I’m going to present this to him, our concern,'” Cunningham recalled. “‘If he gets up and breaks like I’ve seen a guy do it, he’ll run right over to the ground power tent where those guys live and he’ll just start shooting people.'”

Fortunately, there was no violence and the conflict was resolved.

“We had to stay up around the clock for a day or so to see what would happen in case we had to call for an SA-16 (amphibious flying boat) to come out with Air Police and come in and capture this guy, and we’re going to have to tie him up to a palm tree or something,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on.”

The veteran sergeants kept up morale in other ways.

Read Also: That time Americans demanded the Coast Guard rescue the cast of Gilligan’s Island

They improved the camp with funny signs, hand-made furniture and a wind-driven water pump. They cooked sea turtles for the men. And they improvised a way to make alcohol from coconut juice and cake mix.

Cunningham remembers the technical sergeant busy at his distillery ‘making moonshine.’ When the sergeant was asked why he was wearing his pistol, he replied that revenuers might come through and he couldn’t be interrupted.

That sense of humor was “what you really needed on a place like that to keep from cracking up,” Cunningham said.

For recreation, Cunningham would walk around the island and photograph the thousands of birds it attracted. He also tried diving off the reef once and became terrified by the absolute darkness.

“I opened up my eyes and it scared the bejeepers out of me,” he said. “It was total black. I couldn’t see anything. I got so danged scared, I came up and I got off and I got back to that reef and I never went back again.”

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
Cunningham points to the camp on ‘North Danger Island’ where he lived and worked as a radar operator for six months in 1956 during an Air Force project mapping the earth. (Air Force photo by Josh Turner)

In the final month, he and the sergeant were the only humans left on the island. Two members of his team were evacuated. The radio relay team was relocated, taking their noisy generator with them. For the two men remaining, the silence at night was now ‘spooky’ – a lone coconut dropping from a tree was enough to send them scrambling for their weapons.

Cunningham’s experience on the reef forever changed how he relates to other people.

“I have an expression,” he said. “‘This guy sounds like a North Danger kind of guy,’ meaning somebody compatible, smart, you can get along with him, he’s got a good temper. Or this guy, I would not want to be with him on North Danger.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Reality Winner sentenced to five years for Russia-hack leak

A U.S. intelligence worker who pleaded guilty to sending a secret report on Russian election cyberattacks to a news website was sentenced on Aug. 23, 2018 to five years in prison by a federal court in Georgia.

Reality Winner, 26, a U.S. Air Force veteran with a top-secret clearance who was working for an intelligence contractor, admitted to leaking secrets to The Intercept, which published details of the National Security Agency document in June 2017.


The revelation dealt with Russian hacking targeting a company that supplies election technology.

The U.S. Justice Department said Winner printed out and mailed the report in May 2017 to the website, which specializes in investigative reporting on national security topics.

She was arrested in June 2017 and reached a plea agreement two months ago, admitting one count of unlawful retention and transmission of national defense information.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Reality Winner

(standwithreality.org photo)

A federal judge in Augusta, Georgia, accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Winner to five years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

The sentence is the longest ever given to someone for illegally disclosing government information, Winner’s attorneys said, and it comes amid efforts by the White House to crack down on leaks to the press.

John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said Winner’s leaks “put our nation’s security at risk” and he hoped that her jail sentence “will deter others from similar unlawful action in the future.”

Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, said that Winner should be honored and that her sentencing and other prosecutions of whistle-blowers are attacks on freedom of speech and of the press.

“Instead of being recognized as a conscience-driven whistle-blower whose disclosure helped protect U.S. elections, Winner was prosecuted with vicious resolve by the Justice Department,” Reed said.

Featured image: Reality Winner is seen in a photo released by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the U.S. state of Georgia.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Never miss the drop zone when the Unit Cartoonist is watching

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

(Feature cartoon: Delta’s Marinus Pope is grilled for missing his intended touch down point by a significantly wide margin East by Northeast [E/NE]. His reconnaissance brothers approached me about roasting him for all eternity in the Unit Cartoon Book; an ask I joyfully accepted.)

My Special Mission Unit did a lot of parachute training, almost exclusively jumping from very high altitudes pulling out our parachutes at low altitudes, a technique called High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) drops. The technique leverages the high altitude to help cover the presence of the delivery airframe, and the low opening to keep the view of parachutes in the sky at a minimum.


To this day, I have a clinical fear of heights. That kept me away from trying out for elite units for the longest time, but after two years in a regular infantry unit, I was heading to airborne with or even without a parachute.

A modification of the HALO drop is the High Altitude High Opening (HAHO). In this scenario, paratroops exit at ~18,000 feet and pull immediately. Now the troops are under a parachute at nearly 17,000 feet!

At that altitude, a parachutist can travel a staggering lateral distance, even as far as from one end of a state to the other. (A point of humor: in addition to the HALO and HAHO capability we invented a faux elitist group of jumpers called OSNO men; Outer Space No Opening)

Under such conditions a man will descend under (parachute) canopy for an extended period of time — upwards of nearly an hour — and as you might already imagine, the higher the altitude, the greater the propensity for navigational errors.

Once I had a canopy malfunction at 17,000 feet, causing me to lose position in the group formation and drift so far away from my Drop Zone (DZ), that one of our ground support crew had to jump in a truck and race to where I hit the ground to pick me up. My impact was many (MANY) miles off target. I recall free-falling over a near-solid cloud cover and watching my shadow race across the top of the cloud bank toward me at great speed until it met me just as I penetrated the cloud top. Just me and my shadow I say, though I did not know it at the time; I had never heard of or experienced the phenomenon, and rather thought it was another jumper on a collision course toward me. I braced the bejesus out of myself for impact.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Anyhoo… I came down in a cornfield, which was odd, in that there were no cornfields in the state that my jump aircraft took off from. A fine American patriot came screaming up in a really large, really old all-metal Impala:

“I seen ya coming’ down in that-there parachute. Me, I ain’t nevah see anything like it ’round this cornah of Nebraska!”

“Nebraska?!?” Yeah, that was not a good day; that wasn’t where I started from in Colorado.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Did I mention the time I collided with a fellow jumper at night at 24,000 feet? Yeah — pretty much hated it! It was already stressful enough, as we were all breathing pure oxygen through a pilot’s face mask since there was not sufficient breathable oxygen at that extreme altitude. In the collision, my oxygen supply valve had been shocked shut, leaving me with only the rarified atmospheric gas I could suck through the seal of my mask.

Drastic circumstances call for drastic measures, and I did what any other warrior would do — I passed out. Since I was not conscious, I don’t know exactly what happened in the next 16,000 feet or so, but I estimate that I fell flat and stable. When I was low enough for breath-worthy air, I came to, only to find a brother was falling right with me some three feet away staring me in the face intently, ready to pull my reserve for me if I failed to snap back to reality. A glance at my altimeter strenuously urged me to pull my ripcord immediately.

Another thing that happened during the time I was “away” from my fall, was that it had begun to lighten up on the horizon as the sun crept in. The aurora made it able for me to see the details of the men around me and the ground below. It all looked so so so much like a cartoon… but I had my sense about me and saved my own life; oh, but that doesn’t count for a medal.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
Articles

Pentagon chief says military is stronger 5 years after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

In a statement marking the 5th anniversary of the repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay men and women from serving openly in the military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today’s military is stronger than ever since the repeal.


“I am proud to report that five years after the implementation of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ our military, drawn from a cross-section of America, is stronger than ever and continues to exemplify the very best that our great nation has to offer,” Carter said. “The American people can take pride in how the Department of Defense and the men and women of the United States military have implemented this change with the dignity, respect, and excellence expected of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

Carter expressed optimism as the military continues to become more inclusive.

“As the memory of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ fades further into the past, and we move forward together to face new challenges,” he added, “we recognize that openness to diversity and reaching out in a spirit of renewed inclusiveness will strengthen our military and enhance our nation’s security.”

Also today, the Pentagon’s personnel chief  released a letter to service members, families and veterans, encouraging people who received less-than-honorable discharges from the military based solely on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and its precursor laws and policies to seek a correction of their records.

“If there is something in your record of service that you believe unjust, we have proven and effective policies and procedures to by which to consider and correct such errors,” acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel Peter Levine wrote. “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a vestige of our past and I encourage you to honor the 5th anniversary of the Department’s implementation of its repeal by coming forward and requesting a correction.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy practicing to ‘up the game’ against old but dangerous threat

Some 8,600 personnel, 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft, and two submarines from 18 countries are in the Baltic Sea this month for Baltic Operations.

The annual BaltOps exercise, led this year by the US Navy’s recently revived 2nd Fleet in its first major European engagement, allows partners to practice air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, amphibious operations, and mine warfare.

Mines are especially dangerous in confined, heavily trafficked waterways, like the Strait of Hormuz or the Baltic Sea.

Bordered by six NATO members, the Baltic is littered with World War I- and II-era mines, and Russia is believed to have the world’s largest arsenal of naval mines — as many as a quarter-million, by one estimate.


“The Baltic Sea is of vital strategic importance for the alliance,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu, who stressed that the exercise was not targeted at any country but noted the deterioration of European security since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

BaltOps 2019’s Mine Warfare Task Group had sailors and experts, including more than 70 divers, from 11 countries manning more than 15 mine-countermeasures ships, 15 unmanned undersea vehicles, five drone ships, and airborne mine-countermeasures systems.

“There is a lot of value in this exercise as it supports not only our US capability, but our work with partner nations in the mine-warfare space,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Claytor, officer in charge of a detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28.

Below, you can see how the US and NATO train for a uniquely complicated, and uniquely dangerous, form of warfare.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Researchers from the US Office of Naval Research and German Naval Research aboard FSG Konsort, conduct MCM Experimentations using an Mk 18 Mod 2 unmanned underwater vehicles during BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Lt. Alex Burtness, left, a field support representative for Mk 18 Mod 2, prepares to lower a Mk 18 Mod 2 from the stern of FSG Kronsor during experimental Mine Countermeasure operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A Mk 18 Mod 2 is submerged from the stern of FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasure (MCM) operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The Mk 18 Mod 2 UUVs being tested had two kinds of sensor packages: The Small Synthetic Aperture Minehunter and the Autonomous Topographic Large Area Survey forward-looking sonar.

Small Synthetic Aperture Minehunter systems work on a range of wavelengths, providing fine-grain imaging of the seafloor and of small man-made objects as well as peering into the seabed to provide imagery and analysis of buried objects.

The SSAM II module used at BaltOps “provides higher resolution and is intended to hunt bottom mines,” said Navy Lt. Matthew Stroup, public affairs officer for the BaltOps 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group.

SSAM II “has two modes; linear [synthetic aperture sonar] mode for rapid search and circular SAS, which provides very high-resolution images to enable” reacquiring and identification, Stroup added.

Autonomous Topographic Large Area Survey forward-looking sonar, known as ATLAS, has a wide search-area width that’s meant for volume mine-hunting, Stroup said. It can also be used to gather information, including mapping of clutter and large-object detection on the seafloor and to gauge ocean depth.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A Mk 18 Mod 2 unmanned underwater vehicle is submerged from FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasures operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Mine warfare is key to maintaining sea lines of communications, particularly in ports and landing areas, said US Navy Rear Adm. Scott Robertson.

Robertson is commander of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center and led the BaltOps 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Lyle Valtron, a field support representative, operates an Mk 18 Mod 2 aboard FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasure operations at BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A mine countermeasure ship attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) transports divers in preparation for an investigative dive during a mine countermeasure exercise in support of Baltic Operations 2019.

(NATO/CPO Brian Djurslev)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Naval Aircrewman 1st Class Patrick Miller operates the common console, used for both Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS), aboard a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A close-up of the common console aboard a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

The Airborne Laser Mine Detection System aboard an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter heading to the Baltic Sea during BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A team of Norwegian explosive ordnancemen prepare to detonate a World War II-era, air-laid mine weighing approximately 1,000 pounds in the Baltic Sea, June 2019. The team is operating as part of an 11-nation Mine Warfare Task Group in BALTOPS 2019.

(US Nav photo by Lt. Matthew A. Stroup)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A team of Norwegian explosive ordnancemen prepare to detonate a World War II-era, air-laid mine weighing approximately 1,000 pounds in the Baltic Sea, June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

An unexploded A Mark I-VI mine at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It was detected, identified, and detonated by Norwegian and Danish naval personnel during BaltOps 2019 in June 2019.

(Royal Danish Navy)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A diver attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) prepares an investigative dive during a mine-countermeasure exercise at Baltic Operations 2019.

(NATO photo by CPO Brian Djurslev)

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

A roughly 1,000-pound WWII-era air-laid mine detonates in the Baltic Sea after being discovered by the BALTOPS 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group and being rigged for detonation by a team of Norwegian explosive ordancemen in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

“There is a good chance we will find more of these mines as the exercise continues, and it’s reassuring to know our international task group has the training and expertise necessary to safely dispose of them,” Robertson added.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sexual assault at Fort Bragg up 28 percent over last year

A summary released by the Department of Defense shows reports of sexual assault from Fort Bragg increased by 28 percent in 2016 over the year before.


The summary says Fort Bragg received 146 reports of sexual assault in 2016 compared to 114 reports in 2015.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
Sexual assault in the service is a very real problem, reports show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

The News Observer of Raleigh reports that the summary notes that the location of the assault and the location of the report don’t necessarily coincide.

Also read: It’s not a scandal; it’s sexual harassment — Marines investigated after sharing nude photos without consent

Camp Lejeune had 169 reports of sexual assault in 2016, compared to 164 the year before.

At Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the number of reports dropped, from 49 in 2015 to 27 in 2016. Seymour Johnson Air Force Base had 13 reports in 2016, unchanged from the previous year.

Articles

ISIS militants are faking illnesses to get out of fighting

There’s a term US soldiers give to one of their own who tries to shirk duty by making constant medical appointments: Sick call commando.


It looks like ISIS has the same problem.

Documents seized last month by Iraqi forces at a former ISIS base in Mosul, Iraq reveal that, despite its ability to recruit religious fanatics to the ranks, the so-called Islamic State has its fair share of “problem” fighters who don’t actually want to fight, The Washington Post reports.

Also read: ISIS is about to lose its biggest conquest in the Middle East

The Post found 14 fighters trying to skate their way out of combat, to include a Belgian offering a note about having back pain, and a Kosovar with “head pain” who wanted to be transferred to Syria.

Another, a recruit of Algerian descent from France, told his superiors he wanted to return home and offered two suspicious claims: I’m sick, and if you send me home, I’ll continue to work remotely.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
The line for ISIS sick call.

“He doesn’t want to fight, wants to return to France. Claims his will is a martyrdom operation in France. Claims sick but doesn’t have a medical report,” one note reads, according to The Post.

Of course, there are plenty within the ranks of ISIS who are still fighting on the front lines. But to see that at least some are trying to get out while they still can seems to suggest that the USand Iraqi military is doing something right.

Iraqi forces captured all of eastern Mosul late last month, and preparations are currently being made to start hitting the western side of the city. The top US general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, is confident that both Mosul and the ISIS capital of Raqqa will fall “within the next six months.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This woman landed under fire at Inchon with the Marines

Marguerite Higgins was a legend of the news media who went ashore with the Marines in the fifth wave at Red Beach at Inchon, South Korea, earning her the respect of ground-pounders and a Pulitzer Prize while allowing the general public to understand what troops were doing for America overseas.


Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Marguerite Higgins, a war correspondent who landed with Marines at Red Beach.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

Higgins’ journalism career started when she traveled to New York with her portfolio from college, asked a newsstand guy where the closest newspaper office was, and stormed in with the demand that she be made a reporter.

That was in 1941. America was quickly dragged into the wars in Europe and the Pacific, and Higgins got herself sent to Europe where she wrote some of her most haunting work, describing the liberation of concentration camps during the fall of Nazi Germany. She braved shellfire in battle and wrote about what the soldiers around her suffered.

In fact, when she rushed to cover the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, she arrived with a Stars and Stripes reporter before the Army did. The German commander and guards at the southern end of the camp turned themselves over to the journalists, and those journalists had to let the prisoners know they’d been freed.

Her work in World War II was appreciated, but she hadn’t been sent overseas until 1944. When the Korean War began, Higgins was based out of Japan as the bureau chief of the New York Tribune’s Far East Office, and she immediately sent herself to the front.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Prisoners are marched past an M26 Pershing tank in the streets of Seoul, South Korea in 1950.

(Department of the Navy)

She was there when Seoul fell to North Korea, but then the Tribune sent another war reporter and ordered Higgins back to Japan. Instead of leaving, she kept reporting from the front in competition with other journalists — including the other Tribune journalist: Homer Bigart.

Yup, she competed against other employees of her own newspaper. Though, in her defense, that just meant the New York Tribune was getting a steady stream of articles from two of the top war correspondents in the world.

Well, it was, anyway, until the U.S. passed a new rule banning female reporters from their front lines. Higgins protested, which did nothing. Then, she protested directly to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was then the commander of all U.S. forces in Korea. This proved to be much more successful.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Newspaper article announces that ban on women war correspondents in Korea has been lifted.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

MacArthur sent a telegram to the Tribune saying, “Ban on women correspondents in Korea has been lifted. Marguerite Higgins is held in highest professional esteem by everyone.”

And that was great for Higgins, because her Pulitzer moment came a couple months later. Higgins got herself onto one of the largest operations of the war: The Army and Marine Corps landing at Inchon. The strategic idea was to threaten the interior supply lines of the Communists and to relieve pressure on troops that were barely holding the southern edge of the peninsula. She opened her article with:

Heavily laden U.S. Marines, in one of the most technically difficult amphibious landings in history, stormed at sunset today over a ten-foot sea wall in the heart of the port of Inchon and within an hour had taken three commanding hills in the city.

A little later in the article, she writes:

Despite a deadly and steady pounding from naval guns and airplanes, enough North Koreans remained alive close to the beach to harass us with small-arms and mortar fire. They even hurled hand grenades down at us as we crouched in trenches which unfortunately ran behind the sea wall in the inland side.

It was far from the “virtually unopposed” landing for which the troops had hoped after hearing the quick capture of Wolmi Island in the morning by an earlier Marine assault.
Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

Marines clamber over obstacles at Inchon, South Korea, during the amphibious assault there. Marguerite Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines. Her coverage highlighted the bravery of troops under fire, but was also critical of those who had sent forces in under-prepared or -equipped. In 1951, she wrote in War in Korea: A Woman Combat Correspondent:

So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth. It is best to tell graphically the moments of desperation and horror endured by an unprepared army, so that the American public will demand that it does not happen again.

After Korea, she continued to search out chances to cover troops in combat. In 1953, she went to Vietnam to cover French forces and covered the defeat at Dien Bein Phu where her photographer was killed by a land mine. She got a pass to report from both sides of the Iron Curtain and covered the Cold War tensions as they rose in the early 1960s.

Unfortunately, her dangerous work eventually caught up with her. She returned to Vietnam to cover American operations there and, in 1965, she contracted leishmaniasis. She was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. for treatment, but died on January 3, 1966, from the disease.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 ways armies have sent ‘FU’ messages to their enemies

As far back as documented history goes, war has crushed civilizations and built new empires. Regardless of era, military leaders and warlords have long sent visual (or “FU”) messages to their enemies in hopes that emotions, not tactics, take over the battlefield.


Related: 7 badass nicknames enemies have given the American military

With both sides desperate for a victory, the art of mind manipulation can trigger a response that just might reduce the enemy’s will to fight.

1. Tossed in a gutter

ISIS controls many areas in Iraq, but that doesn’t stop members of the Iraqi forces from showing their own progress. 

According to Fox News, Iraqis toss the dead bodies of ISIS members in the street gutters as a form of intimidation to ISIS sleeper cells and their supporters.

2. Drawn and Quartered

Most of us are familiar with William Wallace’s legacy, especially if you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. What the award-winning filmmaker didn’t show was what King Edward did after the end credits rolled.

According to duhaime.org, the King of England ordered his soldiers to cut Wallace’s body into four pieces and post them at the four corners of Britain. Wallace’s head was stabbed with a spike and set on London Bridge for an epic “screw you” message.

 

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
William Wallace statue stands tall in Scotland.

 

3. Capture the flag of your enemies

Those who have had the opportunity to fight in a Taliban-infected area probably noticed the white flags flapping in the wind over extremist strongholds.

Marines love flags, too — especially their own, which wave high above American positions. They also enjoy taking the Taliban flags and putting them on display for the bad guys to see.

 

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
Infantrymen from 3rd Battalion 5th Marines Lima Company 2nd Platoon enjoy a moment after capturing a Taliban flag. #wegotyoursh*t

4. A good slicing

Around 500 B.C., a war between the State of Yue and the State of Wu in China broke out.

Gou Jian, the King of Yue, was unsure of his victory over the Wu. To try to gain an element of surprise, Jian ordered 300 of his men to stand in front of the enemy, remove their swords and cut their own throats before the battle began.

The Wu were so completely stunned, Jian was able to send in his attack on the unsuspecting army and defeat them.

(We actually don’t recommend this tactic…)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how one Marine balances the reserves and a day job with the Air Force

Life in the military is a path not many people take, and even fewer take the road of becoming a U.S. Marine. The military in general has many challenges that service members learn to face throughout their career. Those challenges include going to school, taking care of their family and performing their military occupation specialties simultaneously, while also participating in exercises or preparing for deployments.


For Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, learning how to balance his family, military career, civilian careerand training exercises while also managing to have time to help out his community is a top priority.

“It’s harder for the Reserve Marines,” Kirby said. “We balance full-time jobs, a family, college and also being a Marine. You’re going high speed on all of it and you want to be the best at what you are doing in your civilian career, the Marine Corps and your family.”

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony Rubio, an inspector-instructor communication chief for 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, vouches for Kirby’s capability to uphold his responsibilities within the United States Marine Corps. Kirby’s civilian career has never interfered with his performance as a Marine, he said.

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy
Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, poses for a photo in front of a Humvee during Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 1-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 12, 2017. Kirby was preparing for an upcoming deployment. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melany Vasquez

Hard Worker

“He is a very intelligent human being,” Rubio said. “He has been at this unit as a radio operator for the longest time and knows how to get the job done. He is very proficient at his [military specialty]. Because he’s such a hard worker, I don’t have to micromanage him. He knows how to get the job done, regardless of what the mission is.”

After completing his monthly drills, Kirby returns to his civilian career as an aircraft pneudraulic systems mechanic at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where is responsible for equipment maintenance and operational and functional checks on aircraft.

The Marine Corps has helped Kirby to stand out above his peers by developing the skills needed to becoming a better leader, he said.

“All the principles and values of the Marine Corps are brought into my civilian life,” Kirby said. “The Marine Corps will set you above everyone else.”

Regardless of the amount of work and responsibility present on his daily routine, he has adapted and became proficient at multitasking. He manages to exceed at his obligations and even find some extra time for himself, but he says he doesn’t spend his free time watching television or relaxing alone.

Also Read: Marine Reservist protects family from attacker

Instead, Kirby said, he is constantly involved in volunteer work. He has helped on rescue operations in the aftermath of tornados and he’s an active participant in the Toys for Tots program.

Kirby has been participating in exercises to prepare himself for a deployment early next year.

“He has been waiting for this deployment for as long as he has been here, and I’m glad that he is one of the Marines that is going,” Rubio said. “If he wasn’t going, the Marines would have a hard time accomplishing or understanding the communication side.”

Even with his service to the Marine Corps, deployment, work as a mechanic and volunteer hours, Kirby said he wants to go back to school to finish his education.

“I plan on going back to school after my deployment,” he said. “I want to go back and go into mechanical or aerospace engineering. I think that it would help me in my career as a tinker.”

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