Artist takes his craft to war and back again - We Are The Mighty
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Artist takes his craft to war and back again

When Poto Liefi awoke on September 11, 2001 he wasn’t thinking about being a soldier or going to war. He was a 38-year-old commercial artist working in Los Angeles, and he had just helped launch a new Sketchers shoe campaign for Target.


Poto was good at what he did and enjoyed the work.

After Poto pivoted from fine arts to commercial arts – a few years out of art school – he went from working on clothing and backpack lines to designing shoes.

“I learned how to create a product line,” he said. “And I also learned where my work fit relative to the entire product line.”

He followed his work for Sketchers with a line of hiking boots that, in turn, turned into Taos footwear, a women’s shoe company.

Then the World Trade Center towers fell, and the Pentagon was hit.

He decided to join the Army. Most of his colleagues in the designer world thought he was crazy. Even his recruiter – after visiting his expansive glass office – asked why he was leaving a comfortable world behind.

“I wasn’t satisfied with work anymore,” Poto said. “I had the news going all the time, and I felt a sense of responsibility to do something.”

The maximum age for recruits had just been upped from 34 to 42 when Poto showed up to Fort Jackson for basic training as a 38 year-old recruit. “I lucked out big time,” he said.

After boot camp he was given a 25M Multimedia Illustrator designation. “At first I thought it was stupid to get paid peanuts for the same job I was doing on the outside,” he said. “But after I did the research I saw there was a lot more to it.”

Poto was assigned to 304th Psychological Operations Company, and in 2008 he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. He immediately put his skills to work on posters, billboards, and web content.

“I was surprised at what we were able to do with the proper messaging,” he said. “We actually had campaigns, branding the Iraqi Security Forces. We were getting a good, consistent message on the streets, and getting locals to rally around an ideology.”

He returned to the U.S. at the end of 2008. Less than a year and a half later he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan with the 344th Psychological Operations Company.

“Just as I’d sold Iraq to the Iraqis I had to sell Afghanistan to Afghans.”

Part of the time Poto worked with the Australian Army based in Uruzgan, and there he realized they needed to deviate from the standard Army playbook to be effective.

“We had to take our military goggles off,” he said. “We weren’t the only media outlet the locals were exposed to.”

But in spite of the challenges Poto believes they accomplished their mission. He sums up his experience at war with a simple thought: “Pride shows.”

He returned home in March of 2011, a 43-year-old corporal ready to transition back to the civilian workforce. But it was anything but a smooth process. Reintegration was tough in spite of his pre-military work experience, a circumstance he blames on his age and the stigma of post traumatic stress. It took him three years to find a full-time job.

He finally landed a job as a supply chain manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, California.

Poto’s transition advice to veterans following him back to the civilian side is straightforward: “Never feel entitled,” he said. “Be thankful, be respectful, and be real still.”

At the same time he held fast to his creative side. One day he took the image of a soldier who’d fallen in Iraq – PFC Corrina Lau – and superimposed it into a classic war poster. The result was powerful and immediate.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

“I got very emotional reactions from the first people I showed the artwork to,” Poto said. “They said things like, ‘This is alive.'”

Poto did similar artwork for the families of other fallen warriors, and the response compelled him to brand the effort “Freedom’s On Me.”

“Freedom’s On Me is a way to keep the legacies of these service members alive,” Poto explains. “These are people that were in the military, not a bunch of robots.”

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

See more about Poto’s artwork at Freedomsonme.com and on Facebook.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Does your military family have an emergency plan?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Coronavirus pandemic that’s happening around the world. The effects of the virus have left military families scrambling, and not for reasons you think. With military moves being stopped, schools shut down, and redeployments halted, families are struggling to figure out a plan to prevail through yet another disaster.


Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Do you have an emergency financial plan in place for your family?

Having emergency funds for your family in times like this is crucial. Going forward, use these financial tips to help your family thrive during hard times.

  • Have three months worth of expenses saved if possible.
  • Have adequate insurance (travel, personal property, auto, renters, and home).
  • Save a small amount of cash every month (Separate from your normal savings).

Do you have an emergency childcare plan?

With the rising number of schools and daycare centers shutting down, having an emergency plan for your children is essential. After reading that most military families don’t have someone they can ask a favor, finding your village is now more important than ever. Because we assume our school-aged children would spend most of their days at school, we don’t really prepare for this not to be the case. Now, we have to prepare. Here are a few tips to keep your kids safe and entertained.

  • Have a list of drop-in childcare facilities or babysitters near your home.
  • Have written childcare instructions in your home for an emergency babysitter.
  • Sign up for a free online school subscription. Cato.org has an extensive list of online schooling options.
Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Do you have enough household products in case of emergency?

Many military families live paycheck to paycheck. Having a surplus of food and household items may not be an option. However, there are things you should always keep in your home in case of emergency, or in this case, quarantine.

  • Always keep one weeks worth of basic living essentials in your home.
  • Have a small supply of ready to eat foods on hand.
  • Don’t forget baby formula pet food. Many people overlook these items when preparing for a disaster.

Does your family have exceptional medical needs?

If you have an exceptional family member or members that requires medication, having necessary medical supplies can mean the difference between life or death.

  • Have a pre-written medical emergency sheet easily accessible
  • Contact your doctor for medication refills, if you are close to running out.
  • Have basic medical supplies on hand (cold medicine, bandages, pain relievers).

Being prepared eases the stress of any emergency, especially one that doesn’t have an immediate end in sight. Visit Ready.gov to learn more about how you can prepare your family for an unexpected emergency. Better to be safe, than sorry.

Also, check CDC.com for the most accurate up-to-date information.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey sticks with plans to get Russian missiles, kill Kurds

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey may buy U.S. Patriot missile systems if conditions are right, but insists such a deal would be impossible if Washington forces Ankara to cancel its agreement to purchase S-400 antiaircraft missiles from Russia.

In an interview with Turkey’s NTV on Jan. 10, 2019, Cavusoglu said his NATO-member state will not accept the United States imposing conditions in regard to its deal to buy the Russian-made surface-to-air defense systems.

Meanwhile, in another sign of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington, Cavusoglu said a military operation Turkey was planning against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria did not depend on a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.


Cavusoglu told NTV it was not realistic to expect the United States to collect all of the weapons it had supplied to Syrian Kurdish fighters who are viewed by Ankara as terrorists.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in late December 2018 that he planned to withdraw some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria stunned U.S. allies and led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

But U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told Turkish officials in Ankara on Jan. 8, 2019, that Turkey’s assurance it won’t attack the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters was a “condition” for the withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Bolton of making “a very serious mistake” with the demand.

“We cannot make any concessions in this regard,” said Erdogan, who vowed that “those involved in a terror corridor” in Syria “will receive the necessary punishment.”

The U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units form the backbone of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces and have been fighting alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State militants in northeastern Turkey.

But Ankara insists those Syrian Kurdish fighters are linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group that is banned in Turkey and has been considered a terrorist group by the United States since 1997.

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

Articles

How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

How much of a threat do Russia’s emerging 5th-generation stealth fighter, nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defenses, anti-satellite weapons, conventional army and submarines pose to NATO and the U.S.?


Current tensions between Russia and NATO are leading many to carefully assess this question and examine the current state of weaponry and technological sophistication of the Russian military — with a mind to better understanding the extent of the kinds of threats they may pose.

Naturally, Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the pace of Russia’s current military modernization and the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again
A T-90A battle tank in Moscow | Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however some examinations of Russia’s current military reveals questions about its current ability to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.

Nevertheless, Russia continues to make military advances and many Pentagon experts and analysts have expressed concern about NATO’s force posture in Eastern Europe regarding whether it is significant enough to deter Russia from a possible invasion of Eastern Europe.

Also, Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outermost borders are sizeably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.

Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, yet the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.

A think-tank known as The National Interest has recently published a number of reports about the technological progress now being made by Russian military developers.  The various write-ups include reporting on new Russian anti-satellite weapons, T-14 Armata tanks, air defenses and early plans for a hypersonic, 6th-generation fighter jet, among other things. Russia is unambiguously emphasizing military modernization and making substantial progress, the reports from The National Interest and other outlets indicate.

For instance, Russia has apparently conducted a successful test launch of its Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile, according to The National Interest.

“This is the second test of the new weapon, which is capable of destroying satellites in space. The weapon was apparently launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility north of Moscow,” the report from The National Interest writes.

In addition, The National Interests’ Dave Majumdar reported that Russian Airborne Forces are set to form six armored companies equipped with newly modified T-72B3M  tanks in the second half of 2016. Over the next two years, those six companies will be expanded to battalion strength, the report states.

Russia is also reportedly developing a so-called “Terminator 3” tank support fighting vehicle.

During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures.

Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.

Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.

Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.

By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.

On the overall Naval front, Globalfirepower.com assesses the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.

Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.

In fact, the Russian-built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again
A prototype of Russia’s fifth-generation jet, the PAK FA. | Wikipedia Commons

Citing Russian news reports, the National Interest reported that the Russians are now testing a new, S-500 air defense systems able to reportedly reach targets up to 125 miles.

In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout strategic areas by the Russian military.

Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.

Rand Wargame

While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate findings from a recent Rand study explaining that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.

The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Rand study has concluded.

After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s.  During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.

The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.

“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.

“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead.  As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.

A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.

One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.

A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.

The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.

“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.

During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again
NATO military forces

“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union, the study maintains.

“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.

The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.

Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.

The actual NATO troop presence in Eastern Europe is something that is still under consideration, a recent report in Military.com sites sources saying NATO is now considering adding more troops to its Eastern flank as a way to further deter Russia.

However, while the Pentagon’s ongoing European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends.

At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.

Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.

For example, an exercise known as Swift Response 16 began May 27 and is scheduled to run through June 26 in Poland and Germany; it include more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most spine-chilling military superstitions

Humans are superstitious. We tend to come up with all kinds of ways to justify certain things we don’t fully understand. That same quality definitely has a home in military service. While some of these may seem ridiculous at first glance, there’s usually some kind of explanation underneath.

The Navy is easily the most superstitious of the branches — since their origins are tied to a history of life at sea, both military-related and otherwise, where imaginations ran wild after spending many months adrift. But, as a whole, the military has a wide array of superstitions that, when you take a closer look, are actually pretty creepy.


Artist takes his craft to war and back again

You don’t want one of these bad boys to drift right over a cliff.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Yarnall)

Don’t carry a white lighter… Ever.

This is a superstition held by a huge number of people, mostly because of the notorious “27 Club” — a club made up of famous musicians and artists (like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and others) that died at the age of 27 while carrying, you guessed it, a white lighter.

In the military, however, this superstition was given legs by a bad experience with an Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Rumor has it, the vehicle lost its brakes and went off a 100-foot cliff while one Marine carried a white lighter and another had a damn horseshoe. That horseshoe might have been good luck, but the lighter’s bad mojo was enough to disrupt the balance.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

King Neptune doesn’t want to hear your sh*t.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Andrew Betting)

Neptune doesn’t like whistling

It’s a long-held belief in many cultures that whistling, especially at night, is an invitation to the spirits. There’s a home for this superstition in maritime tradition, too. Instead of spirits, however, the idea is that whistling will summon bad weather as it angers the King of the Sea.

So, if you find yourself on ship and you get the urge to whistle — don’t. Neptune seriously hates it.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

When you hear the enemy eating apricots.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Apricots

A Stars Stripes article from 1968 explains a story surrounding Marines at Cua Viet who continuously found themselves under attack by enemy artillery barrages. What they started to notice, however, was that these barrages would start almost immediately after a Marine ate a can of apricots from their C-Rations.

Coincidence? You be the judge.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Maybe the “grandma’s couch” pattern wasn’t the best camouflage idea.

(Reddit)

Skeleton Keys

This superstition comes from the U.S. Army. If you look closely, you’ll see a pretty distinct key-shaped blotch within modern camouflage patterns. In what may be coincidence, several soldier took bullets right in the keys. It could just be that — coincidence — or it could be a deeper, like a spiritual omen.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Just don’t do it. Please.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele.)

Saying the “R” word

You know the word. “Rain.”

Marines, soldiers, and anyone who has a job in the military that requires going outside believe that using the term will change the weather from anything to pouring rain. Infantry Marines will tell you that a bright and sunny day changes almost instantly when someone utters this word.

What’s worse is that it won’t stop until you head back to the barracks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.

Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.

But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.


“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”

Tet Offensive 

On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.

About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.

Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.

Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.

While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

Tan Son Nhut

One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.

After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.

As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.

Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.

When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.

As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.

“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.

A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.

Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.

“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.

His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.

Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.

“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”

Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.

“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”

He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.

After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.

With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.

There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.

As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.

“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.

Reinforcements

Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.

Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.

“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”

Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.

Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.

“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.

Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.

He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.

“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”

Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.

Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.

They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.

Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.

“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 31st

It looks like Hurricane Lane is finally done wrecking Hawaii, leaving in its wake record rainfall, widespread building damage, and places without power. Since Hawaii is home to many military installations from each branch, they won’t have to look too hard to find bodies for their 10,000-man aid detail.

If you’re stationed in Hawaii, you’ll more than likely be used in the clean-up efforts — you know, just as soon as you finish sweeping all the crude that washed into the motor pool.

These memes probably can’t soothe the pain of being the only person who’s actually going to work while your buddies are making their third run to the gut truck and your NCOs are “supervising.” But, hey, they can’t hurt, either.


Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via Military Memes)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via Shammers United)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme by Ranger Up)

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

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Artist takes his craft to war and back again

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Artist takes his craft to war and back again

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All the pay and respect of a specialist with the duties of an NCO. No one ever wants to be a corporal, you just end up as one.

And if you think you actually wanted to be a corporal, you’re only lying to yourself — or you’re secretly a robot.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airborne soldiers host podcast on Army’s Cold War history

Soldiers assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps board a C-130 Hercules from the Rhode Island Air National Guard before an Airborne operation at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 23, 2017. (U.S. Army Photo by Hubert D. Delany III/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)ShareTweetEmailWhatsApp

The XVIII Airborne Corps, stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has released the first episode of its new podcast, “The Doomsday Clock.” “The Doomsday Clock” features stories from the U.S. Army’s Cold War history from the close of World War II in 1945 through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The podcast will include American and British historians as special guests each week. Some of the guests include:

  • Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and author of the 2020 book “Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization”;
  • Sir Max Hastings, British journalist, historian, and award-winning author;
  • American filmmaker Ken Burns;
  • Historian H.W. Brands;
  • Historian A.J. Bacevich;
  • Podcast legend Dan Carlin;
  • Actor Matthew Broderick, star of the 1983 film “War Games,” which influenced President Reagan’s national security policy.
  • Michael Dobbs, historian and author of the 2009 book “One Minute to Minute: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.”

Col. Joe Buccino is the host of “The Doomsday Clock” podcast. He is also the XVIII Airborne Corps historian.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again
Artist takes his craft to war and back again

“Think of this as part of an ongoing conversation with really cool, interesting historians about a fascinating period in our history,” Col. Buccino said in a press release.

“This is a glimpse into the bizarre and the fantastic. This is very serious material; some of it’s dark and apocalyptic, but some of the anecdotes are so strange it’s almost humorous.”

The U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps is also known as “America’s Contingency Corps.” They are responsible for rapid deployments on short notice to any area of operations or joint area of operations to support large-scale combat operations. They are based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and are currently commanded by Lt. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla.

In discussing why the XVIII Airborne Corps decided to start the podcast, host Col. Buccino said, “People crave stories … These are some of the best stories told by some of the best storytellers of our time.”

“The Doomsday Clock” podcast can be found on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Podbean. 

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

You can follow the XVIII Airborne Corps on Twitter at @18airbornecorps and on Facebook at @XVIII.Airborne.Corps

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s new standard issue infantry rifle

The Russian military will be replacing its standard issue AK-74M rifle with the AK-12 and AK-15, according to Military Times, citing Russian state-owned media.

The “5.45mm AK-12 and 7.62mm AK-15 are officially approved and recommended by Russian Ministry of Defense for issue to Infantry, Airborne and Naval infantry troops of Russian Armed Forces,” the Russian defense manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, which also made the AK-47 and AK-74M, said in a press statement in January 2018.


The AK-12 and AK-15 have 30-round magazines and can shoot 700 rounds per minute, the Kalashnikov statement said. They’re also equipped with “red dot, night and IR sights to underbarrel grenade launchers, forward grips, lasers and flashlights, sound suppressors and more.”

The two new weapons will be part of Russia’s “Ratnik” program, a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more.

The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.

Russia claims the second-generation suit will be operational in 2020, and the third-generation suit will be operational in 2022.

See more about the AK-12 and AK-15 in the short Kalashnikov video below:

Articles

3 major ways Bob Hope helped veterans

Bob Hope’s support for our military was so prolific and enduring that he is one of only two civilians who have received honorary veteran status.

In 1997, Congress passed a measure to make Hope an honorary veteran of the U.S. military in recognition of his continued support for the troops. At the time, Hope was the only civilian to be recognized in such a way (he now shares the honor with philanthropist Zachary Fisher who, in 1999, would become the second honorary veteran).

He has so many accolades to his name that it’s nearly impossible to track, but these are some of our favorites:

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

1. He entertained the troops from 1941-1991

On May 6, 1941, he performed his first USO Show at March Field in Riverside, California, which was a radio show for the airmen stationed there. He went on to headline for the USO 57 times during more than 50 years of appearances, providing entertainment for the troops from World War II through the Persian Gulf War.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Letter from prisoner of war, Frederic Flom, written on back of wrapper, Feb. 24, 1973.

(Bob Hope Collection, Library of Congress)

2. He advocated for the release of POWs during the Vietnam War

During his 1971 Christmas tour, Hope met with a North Vietnamese official in Laos to try to secure the release of American POWs. When F-105 pilot Frederic Flom heard about this, it lifted his spirits and prompted him to write Mr. Hope a letter of thanks.

On his last day in office, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Bob Hope the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was launched in 2014 with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy

3. His legacy continues to improve the lives of America’s military community

The Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program provides one-on-one employment services, as well as referrals to other resources, to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business or pursuing higher education.

Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families with employment support and referrals to other resources, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and 83 pursuing education degrees. Free to veterans, who do not need to have a disability to participate, the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring HOPE to those in need and those who served to protect our nation consistent with the legacy of Bob Hope.

To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.

During a week-long campaign in observation of Memorial Day this year (May 23-29), Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers, with 100 percent of the donations going directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.


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MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump just kicked off an insane European tour

President Donald Trump has kicked off a four-nation European tour by bashing NATO as unfair to US taxpayers.

Combined with his pending meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland, Trump has allies fretting over the risk of damage he could do to the decades-old NATO military alliance.


“Getting ready to leave for Europe,” Trump tweeted on July 10, 2018. “First meeting – NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose 1 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs ( Barriers)!”

Trump has been pressing fellow NATO countries to fulfill their goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense by 2024. During his presidential campaign, he suggested he might come to the defense only of NATO nations that fulfilled that obligation. He continues to criticize NATO countries that spend less than that share.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

NATO’s Article 5 says any member of the alliance can invoke a mutual defense if it’s attacked. The US is the only nation to have invoked that clause, doing so after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. NATO allies responded with nearly two decades of support for US operations in Afghanistan.

Still, Trump complained July 9, 2018, that the US was “spending far more on NATO than any other Country.”

“This is not fair, nor is it acceptable,” Trump added, insisting that NATO benefited Europe “far more than it does the U.S.”

“On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of 1 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!” he protested.

NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

Trump expected to encounter protests in the UK

Also as part of this trip, Trump, who has compared the Brexit vote to leave the European Union to his own election, will be making his maiden presidential trip to Britain at a fraught time for British Prime Minister Theresa May. Two Brexit proponents in her Cabinet, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, resigned within hours of each other this week in protest of her plan.

Trump’s visit is expected to attract large protests in London and elsewhere in Britain.

Trump and Putin’s meeting raises eyebrows

Trump’s weeklong trip to Europe will continue with a stop in Scotland before ending with a sit-down in Helsinki with Putin.

The meeting will be closely watched to see whether Trump will rebuke or embrace Putin, who has repeatedly denied meddling in the 2016 election, something the US intelligence community says Russia did with the goal of helping Trump.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon says 50 U.S. troops diagnosed with brain injuries after Iran strike

The U.S. military has for the third time raised the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran’s missile strike on an Iraqi air base earlier this month, AP reported citing a Pentagon spokesman.


Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell said on January 28 that 16 more service members were now diagnosed with brain injuries, bringing the total to 50.

Thirty-one of the 50 were treated and had returned to duty, Campbell added.

In its previous update last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members had suffered injuries.

Initially, President Donald Trump claimed that no Americans were harmed in Iran’s January 8 attack on the Ain Al-Asad air base in western Iraq.

Concussions can cause headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, and nausea.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again

upload.wikimedia.org

Trump has downplayed the injuries saying he “heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things.”

The remarks angered a U.S. war veterans group.

William Schmitz, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said on January 24 the group “expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks.”

Iran’s attack was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of its top military commander, Major General Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike at Baghdad airport on January 3.

There were some 1,500 U.S. soldiers at the Ain al-Asad base at the time of the attack. Most had been huddling in bunkers after being alerted about the incoming missiles.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what you need to know about the ‘green’ beret controversy

The veteran, military, and the special operations communities have been set ablaze after the leaked heraldry of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade surfaced, bearing the adopted moniker “The Legion.”


The newly developed Brigade was rumored to sport a dark green beret, a unit patch with an upward sword, and the acronym starting with ‘SF’ — but for the special forces community, it was far too similar a resemblance to the green beret and upward fighting knife unit patch worn by the Green Berets.

Even the nickname, “The Legion,” is already in use by the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Artist takes his craft to war and back again
Combat Advisor is not exactly Special Forces…

Make no mistake. Their missions are drastically different.

The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s mission is to advise allied nations and combatants. The United States has a history of sending advisors to assist in training allies all the way back to the Philippine Insurrection and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an important mission, but the proud history of the Green Berets has earned its distinction and recognition.

The backlash over the choice of beret can be pointed back to the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who told the Army Times that he’ll take responsibility. “If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the Brigade],” he said.

Milley clarified that the proposed beret is not a “green,” but more of an dark brown based off the British infantry beret.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again
Something along these lines. (Image via Forces)

He defends the tab as a unit tab similar to 10th Mountain or the Old Guard. Patches can often be unintentionally similar. Arrowheads are a common symbol for leadership and they made it distinct enough by straightening the edges.

There is no defending the nickname though. Gen. Milley himself is a Green Beret and served in 5th Group. He says they “have proprietary rights” to the term.

Because of the backlash and online petitions, the 1st SFAB is taking measures to ensure the newly formed unit becomes distinct and its own entity.

Nothing confirmed, of course, but logically they might want to consider rearranging the name so the acronym flows more inline with ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) than Special Forces. It’s also humbly recommended that they pick a beret color that couldn’t possibly be misinterpreted as rifle green. Hey, the once-proposed and forgotten silver Air Assault beret or 101st Airborne’s old blue beret are both still available.

Artist takes his craft to war and back again
Or make it out of PT belts — because the Army always has a way to snap to extremes.

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