Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide - We Are The Mighty
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Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

On April 19, a former soldier completed a 2,200-mile walk across the United States to draw attention to suicides among military veterans.


Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.

A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.

“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”

Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”

The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.

“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”

“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier was killed supporting freedom in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.


Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
Soldiers of Delta Company, 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finish folding a flag in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., April 17, 2013. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

Sgt. First Class Stephen B. Cribben, 33, of Simi Valley, California, died Nov. 4 in Logar Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations. He was assigned to 2d Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident is under investigation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy warship seen in South China Sea carrying unusual amount of F-35s

The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp was recently seen sailing in the South China Sea on its way to the Philippines with an unusually heavy configuration of F-35s.

The Wasp was carrying at least 10 F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters, more than the usual load of six of these hard-hitting fifth-generation jet fighters, The National Interest first reported, adding that the warship may be testing the “light carrier” warfighting concept known as the “Lightning carrier.”


Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Sailors on the Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The amphibious assault ship is participating in the Balikatan exercises, during which “US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response,” the US Navy said in a statement over the weekend announcing the Wasp’s arrival.

The annual exercises prepare troops for crises in the Indo-Pacific region. 2019’s exercises are focused on maritime security, a growing concern as China strives to achieve dominance over strategic waterways.

It’s the first time the Wasp and its Marine Corps F-35B fighters have participated in the Balikatan exercises.

The ship and its fighters “represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said, using rhetoric consistent with US military freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber flights in the South China Sea, intended to check China.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

The Wasp with a heavy F-35 configuration.

(US Navy/USS Wasp/Facebook)

The F-35B is the Marine Corps’ variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force and Navy are also fielding versions of the fighter, the F-35A and the F-35C, the latter of which is designed to operate on full-size carriers.

The F-35B, which was declared combat-ready in 2015, can perform short takeoffs and vertical landings and is suited for operating on amphibious assault ships.

In addition to at least 10 F-35s, the configuration on the Wasp reportedly included four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. Typically, there would be fewer fighters and more rotor aircraft, The War Zone reported.

Deploying with more F-35s than usual could be a first step toward fielding of light carriers, an approach that could theoretically boost not only the size of the carrier force but its firepower.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Marine Corps F-35Bs and MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck of the Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The concept is not without precedent. During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, amphibious assault ships sailed with up to 20 AV-8B Harriers, becoming “Harrier carriers.”

The concept has been rebranded as the “Lightning carrier,” a reference to the fifth-generation fighters the warships would carry into battle.

The War Zone said an America-class amphibious assault ship — successors to the Wasp class — could carry 16 to 20 F-35s in a light-carrier configuration.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

F-35Bs chocked and chained on the flight deck of the Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III)

Fall 2018, a US F-35B launched from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex and conducted the fifth-generation platform’s first combat mission, striking militant targets in the Middle East.

In February 2019, the F-35B achieved another first as it carried out strikes in “beast mode,” meaning an external ordnance loadout, in the Pacific.

The light-carrier concept could see more F-35s doing maritime operations, delivering a massive increase in firepower. This could prove beneficial if the Navy goes ahead with plans to scrap a Nimitz-class carrier as it bets big on the troubled Ford-class carriers and other future combat platforms.

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

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Exclusive excerpt from quadruple amputee Travis Mills’ new book ‘As Tough As They Come’

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide


The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:

We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.

We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.

“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.

Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.

I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.

Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.

I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.

Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.

I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”

Excerpted from TOUGH AS THEY COME by SSG Travis Mills with Marcus Brotherton; foreword by Gary Sinise. Copyright © 2015 by Travis Mills. Excerpted by permission of Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Editor’s note: Travis Mills will be speaking at the Veterans Institute Heroes Work Here Conference in Chicago on November 3.

MIGHTY TRENDING

More than 4,000 soldiers just lost their BAH

About 4,200 soldiers will see a cut in their final paycheck in May 2018, after their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payment was revoked when they failed to update their records by March 1, 2018, Army officials announced.

BAH pays service members an entitlement of up to thousands of dollars monthly based on factors including zip code and paygrade.


But soldiers are required to have documentation proving eligibility, such as a marriage or birth certificate, as well as a DA Form 5960 uploaded to the Army’s personnel system, known as iPERMS.

An official Army message released Jan. 2, 2018, gave soldiers until March 1, 2018, to update their documents or lose the payment, which could be up to several thousand dollars.

“Soldiers who did not submit their documents will see a rate reduction on their May end-of-month Leave and Earnings Statement,” Army Human Resource Command officials said in a May 21, 2018 release.

Only currently deployed soldiers are exempt from the update mandate, officials said.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

“They will need to comply with the policy 60 days after any post-deployment leave, or risk having their pay reduced,” according to the release.

Whether troops qualify for BAH at all is based on paygrade and whether they have dependents.

Dual-military couples are both given a BAH payment at the “without dependents rate,” unless they have children. In that case, one of the members receives the “with dependents rate,” while the other does not.

The documentation crackdown was first reported late summer 2017, long before the Army officially released its mandate for updates in early 2018. At the time, about 60,000 soldiers were missing BAH documentation.

Soldiers can restore their benefit, and receive as back pay any allotments they lost thanks to missing records, by updating iPERMS through their human resources office or unit personnel actions officer, the release said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress upgrades award for hero killed at COP Keating

More than nine years after the Battle of Kamdesh claimed eight lives and left 27 injured, a soldier killed there received a posthumous medal upgrade Dec. 15, 2018, to the nation’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, 27, had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Combat Outpost Keating, the location of the assault by Taliban insurgents that led to one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan.”


The Distinguished Service Cross was presented here to Gallegos’ son, MacAidan Justin Gallegos,14, who lives in the area with his stepfather and mother, Amanda Marr. Marr and Gallegos were divorced at the time of his death.

“A couple weeks ago, when I heard the news that Justin’s Distinguished Service Cross had finally been approved, I knew that one of the great discrepancies in the long narrative of the battle of Combat Outpost Keating had finally been corrected,” Maj. Stoney Portis said during the ceremony. Portis was Gallegos’ commander at the time of the battle.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Distinguished visitors bow their heads during the invocation at Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)

Called “a day for heroes” because of the number of heroic acts during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle, COP Keating was all but overrun when, just before dawn, Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

With what the citation calls “extraordinary heroism,” Gallegos, a team leader for Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, maneuvered “under heavy sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire to reinforce a [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle] battle position that was critical to the Outpost’s defense,” the citation states.

“While under heavy fire for nearly an hour, Staff Sergeant Gallegos continued to suppress the oncoming enemy with the crew-served weapon. Once the weapon’s ammunition was exhausted, he engaged the enemy with his M4 carbine to allow fellow soldiers in a nearby truck to evacuate from their position,” it states.

As they attempted to join the unit defending the outpost, Gallegos retrieved and moved a wounded soldier to safety while under fire, then exposed himself again to ongoing machine-gun fire while trying to provide suppression and cover so the rest of his team could move to his position.

“During this final act, Staff Sergeant Gallegos paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the citation states. “Staff Sergeant Gallegos’ actions enabled a section of soldiers to regroup and provide necessary security to stave off enemy forces from the west side of the camp. His actions played a critical role in the defense of Combat Outpost Keating, and Troop B’s subsequent counterattack against a numerically superior Taliban force.”

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska listen during Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)

Medals of Honor have been awarded to two soldiers who fought at Keating, while 37 have received Army Commendation Medals with combat “V” device for valor, 18 were awarded Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, and nine received Silver Star Medals.

Upgrading Gallegos’ medal was not a quick or easy process, requiring a literal act of Congress. The order for the upgrade was included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Dec. 15, 2018’s ceremony marked the end of that journey, Marr said, shining a spotlight on Gallegos’ heroic actions.

“We never really know what we’re going to do in any situation that’s like that, but I would’ve known that Justin would’ve been that person,” Marr said. “When I was notified, even, of his death, I knew that it had to be something extraordinary … there was not another explanation. Justin didn’t die — he just fought hard. So I just knew.”

Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha were in attendance at the medal ceremony, as was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who presented a flag to MacAidan Gallegos and a handful of veterans of the unit.

Gallegos’ other medals and commendations include the Silver Star; Bronze Star; three Purple Hearts; two Army Commendation Medals; two Army Achievement Medals; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; two Overseas Service Ribbons; the NATO Medal; and the Combat Action Badge.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.


But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.

“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
Green Berets standing proud.  (U.S. Army photo)

This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.

“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.

Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”

“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.

The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
Berlin Wall, 1989 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.

“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”

They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.

In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”

Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
Berlin during the Cold War.

The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.

As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.

Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.

The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.

“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.

They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.

“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”

The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.

“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.

Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.

“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”

Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.

Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.

“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.

Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)

That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.

At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.

In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.

“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.

Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.

“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”

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China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

The Chinese are illegally deploying missiles on at least one of its island bases in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.


According to recent analysis, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been deploying SA-21 “Growler” surface-to-air missiles. The system is also known as the S-400 Triumf, and is considered to be one of the most advanced Russian designs in the world.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The news of the deployment comes days after the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that China was building what appeared to be underground structures at three of their bases, including Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef. The Chinese bases are capable of supporting a number of aircraft, and serve as unsinkable aircraft carriers. China also has launched its first Type 55 destroyer, a vessel roughly comparable to the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers, and also deployed new maritime patrol aircraft to the disputed region.

China’s seizure of the uninhabited islands in the South China Sea was ruled illegal by the Permanent Court of Arbitration last year. The proceedings prior to the sweeping ruling, though, were boycotted by China, which has been aggressively asserting its nine-dash-line claims on the maritime flashpoint.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The U.S. has been determined to challenge the Chinese claims in the region. This past weekend, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) carried out an “innocent passage” through the South China Sea, coming within six miles of Triton Island. FoxNews.com reported that the Stethem was shadowed by a Chinese vessel.

A Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG 105), came within six miles of Mischief Reef this past May, after a pair of buzzing incidents between Chinese and American aircraft.

The White House has been calling out China on multiple fronts. Last month, at a conference in Singapore, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China needed to stop “militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims” in the maritime flashpoint. A report also hammered China for failing to stop human trafficking.

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Navy set to deploy first submarine with female enlisted crew

The Bangor, Washington-based USS Michigan (SSGN 727) will soon put to sea and submerge with a crew that includes four female NCOs and 34 junior enlisted women, marking the first time the Navy has deployed a submarine with women in the enlisted ranks.


The female sailors will be divided between the Gold and Blue crews of the guided-missile submarine.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
INDIAN ISLAND, Wash. (Aug. 1, 2015) Sailors assigned to the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) Blue crew arrive at Naval Magazine Indian Island following a 20-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray/Released)

According to the Kitsap Sun newspaper, the USS Michigan has undergone a $6 million retrofit to build out the crew quarters and heads to accommodate the female crew, including converting a bunkroom into shower space, splitting the aft washroom to allow for a shower and head combination and a watchstander head, and creating a new bunkroom from the old crew’s study.

The chief petty officers will bunk together two or three to a room, while the other women will split into nine-person bunkrooms and share a head, the newspaper said.

The Navy opened up the all-male submarine force several years ago to female sailors and deployed its first crew with women officers in 2011.

The USS Michigan’s crew is made up of 15 officers and about 140 enlisted sailors. The female enlisted submariners were chosen from 113 applicants, the Kitsap Sun reported.

The Navy reportedly plans to add as many as 550 female sailors to the submarine service by 2020.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine recruiters go hi-tech with new app

Marine Corps Systems Command has partnered with Marine Corps Recruiting Command to develop a new tool with the goal of making the job of recruiters a little easier. The launch is part of a strategic initiative to modernize the tools and technologies available to the recruiting force.

The Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II, or MCRISS II, is a mobile platform that provides Marines with all of their recruiting needs from the moment they meet an applicant to the time they leave boot camp.


MCRISS II features a customizable platform where recruiters can tailor their dashboards to help them perform their daily tasks. They can also access the platform while offline in airplane mode when connections are unreliable. The application uses cloud technology and can be accessed using government-issued cellphones, laptops, and tablets.

“The dynamics of having Marines work directly with MCSC software developers from the beginning was invaluable because we were able to adequately describe and display exactly what Marine recruiters wanted in the new system,” said Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Mayfield, MCRISS operations officer for MCRC. “As the project progresses, we have a sufficiently staffed cadre of Marines who gather input from users to keep that line of communication open, so it will help us enhance MCRISS II with more capabilities in the future.”

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Command G3 Team develop user stories for the Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II Feb. 8, 2019, in Stafford, Virginia.

Recruiters gather the applicants’ personal information, background history, goals, and other details to assess if they will meet the standards of a Marine and possibly serve for more than four years. The tool also helps recruiters compare applicants.

“MCRISS II offers greater convenience and helps Marine recruiters maintain their availability and responsiveness, so they can be successful recruiting the next generation of Marines,” said Jason Glavich, MCRISS project Manager in Supporting Establishment Systems at MCSC. “Now that we are using the commercial cloud, our system is more secure, fast and reliable.”

Currently, the MCRISS II team is working on minimal viable product releases that will launch in March 2019. Small capabilities will be released every two to four weeks, so recruiters can receive the benefits of updates to the platform without having to wait the standard time it takes for an entire system to be fielded, Glavich said. The entire rollout will most likely take a little more than 12 months.

“We are leveraging industry best practices and their ability to innovate, and we’re taking those innovations and applying them without having to spend program dollars,” said Glavich. “Because this new technology is more secure and it is built on a low-code platform instead of using traditional computer programming, it allows us to provide recruiters with new capabilities at a much faster pace.”

In the future, the team will use artificial intelligence and new technologies to look at data sets and predict an exact outcome based on previous outcomes and future conditions.

“This predictive analysis will give us a better understanding to determine what’s going to happen, which will help us enhance MCRISS II even more in the future,” said Glavich.

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Thursday Threesome: A trio of new blasters

A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear.


We’ve got the scoop on some new blasters for you. Three of them, actually. Because today’s Thursday, and everyone knows that Thursday is good for threesomes.

You’re welcome.

Remember. At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just an advisement, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.

Grunts: Orgulous.

 

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide
1. Inland Manufacturing T30 Carbine.

Inland Manufacturing (not Indigo Augustine) has released an M1 Carbine style blaster called the T30 Carbine, complete with “M82 Vintage Sniper Scope.” The T30 is intended to resurrect and revive interest in the WWII- and Korean War-era T3 originally fitted with the (state of the art, by contemporary standards) M3 infrared night vision optic. Inland says the new-old T3 will come fitted with a ‘period-correct’ Redfield-style scope welded to the receiver, as the optics on the original were.

The M82 Hilux scope looks correct for the period, but has been constructed to modern standards, including better guts for improved light transmission and clarity. Apparently it also has better windage and elevation capability. The T30 ships with a period-correct clamp on a conical flash hider, oiler, magazine, and sling.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Unfortunately, although the MKS Supply press release indicated the T3 had been released, it doesn’t appear to be on their website (and they did not provide a direct link to the specific product). Nor are the T3 Carbines (as of this writing) on the Inland Manufacturing website, which is apparently different than Inland Depot.

All three sites are pretty anemic and a little confusing, which is both irritating and frustrating. You might be best served just contacting them here if you want to avoid the aggravation.

Sorry, we don’t have candid imagery or lifestyle shots either. They may make great guns (we haven’t shot any yet) but their comms plan blows.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Here are the details they sent us.

Specifications:
  • Weight: 5.3 pounds without scope, 6.0 pounds with scope
  • Barrel length: 18 inches
  • Caliber: .30 Carbine
  • Capacity: 15 as sold (one magazine)
  • Stock: Walnut; low wood design
  • Scope: M82 sniper scope – 2 .5 power by Hilux with 7/8-inch tube
  • MSRP: $1,695 with Hi-Lux M82 scope and Redfield style rings
  • MSRP: $1,279 without scope-without rings
  • NOTE: The Inland T30 will also take 1-inch and 30mm Redfield rings.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

2. The Bushmaster Minimalist

Bushmaster (not Bonnie Rotten) has a new rifle out, as long as we’re on the subject of irritating websites and limited information. Take a look at the Bushmaster Minimalist SD. The company describes it as its “latest modern sporting rifle” — i.e. an AR with a more politically correct name — that provides “…exceptional accuracy, reliability, and performance in a rifle that is highly featured, lightweight and economical.”

It’s chambered in 5.56mm NATO or 300 AAC Blackout, and each weighs approximately 6 lbs. Interestingly, they all feature an ALG Defense trigger and Mission First Tactical furniture, which is nice.

Here are the details Bushmaster sent over. First, take a look a this video Bushmaster

Bushmaster Minimalist-SD Feature and Benefits:

  • 16-inch, lightweight, 4150 FNC treated barrel
  • Rifle Length AAC Square Drop Handguard – For attachment of KeyMod accessories at seven different angles
  • ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT) – Consistent, smooth 5.5-pound trigger pull
  • Mission First Tactical Minimalist Stock – Comfortable and versatile with QD cup and rounded rubber buttpad
  • Mission First Tactical Grip and Magazine – High-quality furniture and magazine with similar styling91056 – BFI Minimalist-SD 556 Specifications
    Mag Capacity Barrel Length Twist Rate Overall Length Upper Receiver Barrel Material Barrel Finish Barrel Contour Avg. Weight
    30 16″ 1:8″ 35″ A3 Flattop 4150  FNC Lightweight 6lbs

    90924 – BFI Minimalist-SD 300 BO Specifications

    Mag Capacity Barrel Length Twist Rate Overall Length Upper Receiver Barrel Material Barrel Finish Barrel Contour Avg. Weight
    30 16″ 1:7″ 35″ A3 Flattop 4150 FNC Heavy 6.3lbs

The Bushmaster Firearms website is still under construction, so you’ll need to go to page 2 of their online catalog to get a better look at the Minimalist-SD…which you can’t order from, so you’ll have to figure out a different way to buy one if you’re so inclined (or find a distributor who has them in stock).

There’s more on their “official fan page” if you’d like to take a look. Find that here. They have an IG account (@bushmaster_firearms) but they haven’t posted anything there yet.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

3. The Chiappa Little Badger rifle

The Chiappa (not Charity Bangs) Little Badger Rifle looks interesting. Now available in 17 WSM and .17HRM (both increasingly popular calibers as .22 becomes ever harder to find), the Little Badger is described as an “ultra-compact, lightweight, break-open rifle designed to go anywhere at any time.”

Seems reasonable enough.

The rifle is only 17-inches long with the action opened and weapon folded. This should make it easy to stow away in your road bag or the pouch doohickey it ships with.

Chiappa says,

“The wire frame stock keeps weight to a minimum and the integrated shell holder in the back holds twelve cartridges so ammo is always at the ready. The Little Badger comes equipped with an M1 Carbine style front and rear sight. Picatinny rails are mounted top, bottom and on both side just forward of the receiver for mounting optics and accessories. An optional handle/cleaning kit combination accessory screws into the bottom of the receiver. Compact length and weighing only 2.9lbs, the Little Badger can truly be taken almost anywhere when the situation calls for a lightweight, versatile rifle.”

The barrel of this single-shot little blaster is 16.5 inch carbon steel with six groove RH 1:16 twist, with muzzle threads at 1/2 in. -28TPI. Sights are fixed, weigh is less than three pounds and overall length is 31 inches.

Apparently there’s a cleaning kit that stows in the pistol grip too.

All the different versions of the Little Badger can be found right here…unfortunately, the new 17WSM isn’t on this website yet either, so you’ll have to just keep your eye out or check their dealers.

The 17HRM isn’t on their home page either, but it looks like it can be found on some other sites if you want to do a little digging.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

MIGHTY HISTORY

11 photos of the awesome Super Cobra after 50 years

The venerable Sea Cobra first flew in 1969. Now, 50 years later, it’s descendant the Super Cobra is still a mainstay of Marine offense and defense, using missiles to destroy enemy strong points and firing its cannon to break up maneuver forces trying to hit American lines. Here are 11 photos from the Super Cobras of today and history.


Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jason Grogan)

AH-1W Super Cobra sends 2.75-inch rockets into an enemy mortar position during a close air support mission at Wadi-us-Salaam cemetery, near Najaf, Iraq, in Aug. 2004.

The Sea and Super Cobra variants of the AH-1 have decades of service. But their predecessor, the AH-1 Cobra, dates back even further to Vietnam. It was originally pitched to the Army as the UH-1G, basically a “tweaked” utility helicopter.

While anyone with eyes could easily see the design was something new, Bell had just lost an attack helicopter competition to Lockheed, and a brand new attack helicopter would’ve required another competition, delaying the weapon’s debut and potentially setting up the craft for a loss to another manufacturer. So Bell played fast and loose with the rules and the Army played along.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Reece Lodder)

An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of the island of Oahu, toward Marine Corps Base Hawaii during maintenance and readiness flights, June 13, 2013.

But the Army eventually admitted the UH-1G Huey Cobra was an all-new craft, and it was re-designated the AH-1. According to an Air Space history, “Cobras would launch with twice as much ammunition as Huey gunships, would get to the target in half the time, and could linger there three times longer.” Troops loved it.

The Marines in Vietnam loved the helicopter as much as soldiers did, but when the Corps went shopping, they wanted a bird with two engines so that an engine failure between ship and shore wouldn’t doom the crew.

And so the AH-1J Sea Cobra was born, first flying in 1969 and making its combat debut in 1975, barely making it into the Vietnam War. Over the following years, the Marines upgraded the guns, missiles, and rockets and proceeded to the AH-1W Super Cobra designation in 1986.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne)

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Patrick Henry braces Airmen Andrew Jerauld as he signals to an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter as it lands on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.

But the era of the Super Cobra is coming to an end. With the debut of the AH-1Z, the Marine Corps moved to the “Viper” designation, and the Vipers have already proven themselves in combat. So the last Super Cobras in the American inventory, the AH-1Ws, are slated to be pulled from active units in 2020 and sold or gifted to overseas allies.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Casbarro)

A Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter supports a beach assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016, a maritime exercise in Hawaii, July 30, 2016.

The Super Cobras are all-weather and have carried a slew of weapons like the XM197 20mm Gatling cannon, Hydra 70 rockets, 5-inch Zuni rockets, TOW missiles, Hellfire missiles, Sidewinder missiles, and AGM-122 SideArm anti-radiation missile.

Typically, it carries the 20mm cannon as well as pods for 2.75-inch Hydra rockets and Hellfire missiles, but it can still carry and employ those other missiles and rockets easily when necessary, giving commanders a flexible, fast platform that can kill everything from enemy radar sites to helicopters to ground troops and vehicles.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Philip A. Gilbert supervises the preflight ground maintenance of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013.

Updates to the AH-1W granted it the ability to see in night vision and infrared, helping pilots to more quickly acquire and destroy targets at night or in bad weather. During Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, 48 AH-1Ws destroyed 97 tanks, 104 armored personnel carriers and other vehicles, 16 bunkers, and two anti-aircraft artillery sites with zero losses.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)

A UH-1Y Venom and an AH-1W Super Cobra shoot 2.75 inch rockets through the night sky and meet their targets during close air support training operations at a range near Fort Drum, N.Y., March 16, 2017.

Typically, the AH-1Ws, and now the AH-1Z Vipers, are deployed alongside UH-1s in Marine light attack helicopter squadrons. These units specialize in close air support, reconnaissance, and even air interdiction. The Super Cobras’ Sidewinder missiles are crucial for that last mission, allowing the Marine pilots to take out enemy jets and helicopters.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso)

A U.S. Marine Corps Bell UH-1Y Huey helicopter and a Bell AH-1W Super Cobra take off on one of the first flights for the new Huey from Bastion Airfield, Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.

While the Super Cobras are faster and have more weapons, the Hueys can carry multiple gunners which can spray fire in all directions. And the UH-1Y Hueys can also carry and deploy up to 10 Marines each, allowing the helicopters to drop an entire squad on the ground and then protect it as it goes to work.

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kevin Jones)

An AH-1W Super Cobra Helicopter takes part in a live fire exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 15, 2013.

The aircraft can fly up to 18,700 feet above sea level, allowing it to clear many mountain ranges while serving on the frontlines. But commanders have to be careful sending the helicopter into the thin air that high as its crews aren’t typically equipped with the robust oxygen equipment of bombers or jet fighters. So the Super Cobras try to stay at 10,000 feet or below.

Check out more photos of the Super Cobra:

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Russell Midori)

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

(U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Dean B. Verschoor)

Veterans

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

On August 23, 1977, Sergeant Shirley was performing his military duties as instructed and required when the unthinkable happened. An explosive device detonated prematurely, blowing up in his hands. Jensen was severely injured, losing both forearms, a lung, vision in one eye, and multiple other internal and external injuries. He was 21 years old.

When he awoke after the injury, only one thing was on his mind. Service. 

For as long as he can remember, Jensen Shirley has understood the importance of serving. The son of a military veteran and nephew to five other WWII service members, Jensen had the future mapped out in his eyes before the tassel on his high school graduation cap was moved from right to left. He was joining the Army.

The year was 1973 and the United States was still two years out from ending its long and bitter war with Vietnam. 

“When I was in high school,” Jensen said, “I told my father I was joining the military and he said, ‘By the time you graduate, you’ll still end up going to Vietnam.’ And he asked me what I thought about that. I told him, ‘No one wants to go, but you all served and sacrificed, and now is our time to serve and sacrifice.’”

“It’s not a question of being right or wrong on the war question, or whether we should or shouldn’t have been there — we were already there. We were asked to serve, we were asked to go, and that was it.”


For Jensen, service was in his blood. 

After Basic Training and Advanced Infantry Training (AIT), Jensen attended the Jungle Operations Training Center and successfully passed jungle school, a highly specialized, rigorous, infantry survival course. Jensen was operationally deployed to Panama where he continued his journey as an infantryman and soldier. 

When his overseas deployment was complete, Sergeant Shirley was assigned to Ft. Jackson, SC as a Combat Weapons Instructor on Bastogne Range. 

Here, service and sacrifice would take on new meaning for the young soldier. His catastrophic injury would change the course of his life forever.



For Jensen, it wasn’t enough that he had survived an injury many others had not. Jensen had to find a way to heal, to rehabilitate, and to get back to work. He was Sergeant Jensen Shirley. This was his calling, his life’s work…the future had been mapped out in his mind since the day he graduated from high school. Only, what was that future now?



“I couldn’t even sign the form I didn’t want to be signing.”

Here is a soldier with a deep-rooted commitment to serve who has suffered an unimaginable loss – of his hands and of his physical body, yes – but also of his sense of self. And he stands in front of the Physical Evaluation Board, forever changed, yet pleading for a chance to stay in the military. There’s just nothing they can do; his injuries are too severe. His military career was over.

But Sergeant Shirley – Jensen – did not allow his journey to end in that boardroom. You know by now that he doesn’t back down easily. 

So, if a military career was truly out of the question, Jensen was looking at the next best thing: serving veterans as a clinical counselor. Jensen was going to college.



There was just one small problem. With no hands and no full-time support, how was he supposed to write a paper or complete an exam? Remember, this is the 1970s. There were no resources, no systems, and no processes to help him navigate through this new journey. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) wasn’t even signed into law until almost 15 years later, and that left Jensen alone to figure out his own path forward. 

Enter Carol Keller.



Carol Keller helped Jensen transition into his new life, one that he never anticipated would be his, but one that he would make extraordinary.

“Because of her help in getting over that first hurdle, I started believing that I could do it. If somebody could just help me, if they could just open the door and let me in, I would do the rest,” he said.

So, just as he set out to do, Jensen graduated from American University. Then he graduated with a master’s degree from The George Washington University. Then he earned a second master’s from the University of San Francisco, a doctorate of education from the University of San Diego, and a CACREP-accreditation from Walden University. Not bad for someone with injuries deemed “too severe.”

From Sergeant Shirley…

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

…To Dr. Jensen Shirley.



Thanks to some mutual friends, Jensen was eventually connected with William Rider. You might remember that name from a past story of ours. Bill served in Vietnam, experiencing unimaginable trauma. He later formed an organization called American Combat Veterans of War, or ACVOW, to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, sexual assault, or those serving jail time. 

A veteran helping veterans. Sound like anyone else you know?

The two were fast friends. Jensen and Bill spend time each week at the North County Vista jail, providing support and counseling to incarcerated veterans. After one such training session, Bill asked Jensen if he had ever heard of Chive Charities.

“Bill smiled, knowing that I had a heart for serving veterans and volunteering my time, talent and service to giving back,” Jensen told us. “And Bill said, ‘I want to talk with you not just about an organization, but about people like yourself who want to make a difference.’”

Making a difference in the lives of others is what it’s all about. And now, the one who always gives is finally receiving. We’re proud to serve Dr. Shirley in his time of need.



His request of Chive Charities was simple: he needed new kitchen appliances that he could operate with his prosthetics and a 4×4 golf cart with enough power to get to the end of his long and sloped driveway and back up again. 

You better believe he was getting those items.

Thanks to our committed donors and incredible partnership with STRATACACHE, we were able to fund a grant for Jensen with an impact of $17,691. Jensen is the third recipient they’ve directly supported this year (remember Gracyn and Zack?). 

Like Dr. Shirley, STRATACACHE values the importance of serving others and providing help to those in need. At Chive Charities, our mission is to make the world 10% happier – we’re able to stand behind that because of their ongoing commitment and support, and through donors like you. If you haven’t joined us yet, DONATE HERE). 

“Jensen shows the true character of the American soldier. In the face of great adversity, he doesn’t quit. STRATACACHE and Chive Charities are proud to thank him for his service and try to help make his life a little easier,” said Chris Riegel, CEO of STRATACACHE. “Our partnership with Chive Charities allows STRATACACHE to focus on helping the underdog, the outsider, the little guy and those in need in the shadows of our lives challenged with everyday activities we take for granted. Helping Jensen is about making the world 10% better.”

Speaking of helping, Chive On California even stepped up to hand-deliver his new appliances this week, gladly serving someone who has served so many others.



We asked Jensen what this support means to him, and as always, his words are powerful. We’ll let him take it from here:

“The Chive Charities grant has impacted me in a way that is so humbling. First, it lets me know I am not alone. Although many years have passed since my incident, I am still pressing on serving others, one person at a time.”

“Second, life is not about what or why things happen to you; life is about what you do for others when things like this happen. My call has been to serve God, country and others. Now, my call is to serve until the service is done. Thank you, Chive Charities, from the bottom of my heart.”


Serve until the service is done. For rare medical, first responders, or veterans like Jensen, that’s a calling we can get behind. Can you? DONATE HERE.

This story originally appeared on Chive Charities. Visit their website to learn more about their services.

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